Date: 14th March 2016 at 2:56pm
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Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to Newport County was made worse by the fact star man Gary Roberts received two yellow cards and is to miss next week’s game at Mansfield.

Fans were left frustrated after a dive was the reason behind his second booking, and the result saw the Blues drop from fourth to sixth in the League Two table.

However, it must be noted that the depth of Pompey squad is stronger than ever, with reinforcements brought to the club in January meaning that Paul Cook’s side should be more than capable of coping without the 31-year-old.

Tuesday 19th January 2016 - FA Cup 3rd Round Replay - Portsmouth FC v Ipswich Town FC : Gary Roberts takes the portsmouth pentalty Photo: Kieran Clarke

Gary Roberts was sent off in the 3-0 defeat to Newport County at Fratton Park on Saturday. Photo: Kieran Clarke/Offside.

Michael Smith looks to be the immediate replacement for Roberts in this week’s game at the One Call Stadium after he has been in and out of the squad since signing on loan on Transfer Deadline Day. The forward has already netted for Pompey, as well as bagging 21 goals in 65 games for his parent club Swindon since 2014, giving him ratio of almost one goal every three matches.

The striker certainly gives the Blues some height up top, standing at six feet, four inches, and was a key element of the 3-1 win at Accrington last Tuesday after Cook opted for the more direct approach to goal. Smith also has plenty of League Two experience with him previously playing for the likes of AFC Wimbledon and Newport.

However, while it may seem that Smith would be a direct swap in the starting line-up for Roberts, it wouldn’t be surprising if Cook changed things up as he did at Exeter two weeks ago. Starts were handed to Kai Naismith and Conor Chaplin, who grabbed the Blues’ goal, while the likes of Gareth Evans dropped to the bench. Having got through a demanding schedule of seven games in 21 days, there will be players carrying fatigue, so perhaps we could see a changed starting XI against Mansfield on Saturday.

Another cup-tie awaits after Pompey failed, once again, to win three games in a row, and nerves will be sky-high after points were dropped against Exeter and Barnet, who also sit mid-table, alongside Mansfield.

It must be remembered that the loss of Roberts has not been absolutely critical for the Blues previously after an injury kept him out earlier in the season. A point was picked up away to promotion rivals Oxford and the Blues walked away victorious after a win at Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Stadium back in September. Furthermore, the likes of Smith and Adam McGurk will be raring to go and hungry to snap up their chance, and it is this desire that could really be of benefit as the League Two promotion challenge heats up nicely.

The next few weeks are crucial for Portsmouth. With no fixture pile-up to worry about and a trip up north not scheduled until April 19 against York, it really is the time to push on and forget about Saturday’s loss and red card, both of which can easily be worked around.

 
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