By Tony Leighton

The current fortnight's international break could not have come at a better time for Portsmouth, says Manager Steve Cotterill as his team take a breather before hurtling back into their do-or-die late bid to gatecrash the npower Championship Play-Offs.

In their 10 matches ahead of the break Cotterill's team lost only once and - having collected 23 points from the 30 on offer - they will head into their weekend fixture at Reading sitting seven places but only six points below the top six.

"The international break came absolutely at the right time for us," said Cotterill. "We got the result we needed in our last game (at Leicester) and that meant we could go into the break and think, 'it's still game-on for us.'

"We've had some injury concerns so the break gives some time for rest and recovery - and I can put my eyes in a bucket of ice! Now we've got to keep believing and keep those (promotion) dreams alive, otherwise we've got no chance.

"You won't see anything erupt for us in the next four games, and if we get another dodgy result it might put us out of it. We need that bit of luck and for everyone to stay fit, and in any case I think it will go to the wire."

Portsmouth fans will certainly be hoping that there are no more dodgy results around the corner after suffering too many of them in the first two-thirds of the season.

In early February Pompey were just two places and four points above the relegation zone, still in the process of recovering from a disastrous start to the campaign - after seven outings they were rock bottom of the table with a miserly two points - following their relegation from the Premier League.

But in the midst of the club's well-chronicled financial problems they weathered the storm and Cotterill, who took charge at Fratton Park in June, has guided his team into a position of respectability with an outside chance of a rapid return to the top flight.

Eight clean sheets in their last nine games suggest that Pompey have the defensive capabilities, and with the likes of David Nugent and Dave Kitson - strikers of Premier League pedigree - up front, they also have the required goal power.

Cotterill said: "We've been on a bit of a run and we're in with a chance, but people forget that this club was still in administration towards the end of October.

"It's been an absolutely desperate situation, but the performances the lads have been putting in and the fans that we've been getting to games, that's a credit to the club. We're trying to recover as best we can - and we're not doing too bad a job of it."

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