THE BIG MATCH
There's a relegation ding-dong at the foot of npower League 1 this weekend with rock-bottom Portsmouth hosting Bury, the side who sit directly above them in the standings.
With the end of season coming into sight, it's now or never for these two teams if they want to remain in the division next term.
Pompey may sit bottom of the table, 11 points off safety, but they have only lost once in their last five, although three of those matches have been draws. They won for the first time in 24 matches last time out, beating Crewe Alexandra 2-1, so will want to carry on that momentum.
Pompey caretaker manager Guy Whittingham said the win at Crewe has given his players a boost, but insisted they remain grounded ahead of the match against fellow strugglers Bury. He told www.portsmouthfc.co.uk: "There have been smiles on faces at training this week and it was nice to get the monkey off our back.
"But the players are all well aware that there are still 10 matches remaining this season and we want to win as many as possible.
"The fans enjoyed watching us win and deserved to have something to celebrate. The result gave us confidence, but we'll keep our feet firmly on the ground."
Bury recorded a morale-boosting away victory against Swindon Town but then lost 2-0 at home to Crawley Town in their most recent outing - a result that left them eight points adrift of safety.
Manager Kevin Blackwell was frustrated with the result against the Red Devils, who are managed by former Shakers boss Richie Barker, and wants more from the team against Portsmouth.
"We've got to take each game as it comes and just focus on ourselves. When we focus on ourselves, we're good," Blackwell explained to Shakers Player.
"When we start worrying about other things if affects us, so we need to just focus on what we're doing. And away from home - we've been very, very good.
"We're confident ahead of going down there [to Portsmouth]; we do very well on the road and we want to keep that going."
KEEP AN EYE ON
Leaders Doncaster Rovers will hope to maintain their position at the top when they take on Bournemouth. Rovers only have a one-point advantage over second-placed Sheffield United so will have to record a win if they are to guarantee their place at the summit until the next round of fixtures.
They were on the end of a 3-0 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons on Tuesday night and the second-placed Blades are breathing down their necks having picked up five wins in their last six. That has forced manager Brian Flynn to question whether his squad can maintain their position at the top.
"Can they cope? - that is the big question for the group now," the 57-year-old told The Star.
"The last 10 games are all massive and they start with a big, big game at Bournemouth on Saturday.
"We need a big response from the MK Dons game and we've then got to get ready for three games in a week again.
"We can't do anything about what happened on Tuesday now so we'll dust ourselves down and look forward to Bournemouth.
"If there's a small crumb of comfort from the MK Dons game it's that we're still top of the league."
Bournemouth hit the summit of the division in mid-February but they have totally fell off the pace with four defeats in succession. Their latest result was a 3-1 loss against Leyton Orient and that left the Cherries in seventh.
They are now two points outside the Play-Off places, but just six adrift of second-placed Sheffield United, meaning there is still plenty to play for. And captain Steve Cook remains positive, regardless of their poor run of results.
The defender explained to www.afcb.co.uk: "We know when we are on our game we can beat anyone. We know that, so nothing changes.
"We aren't fussed if they come into it on a 10-game winning streak or if they have just lost.
"I think we can go out there and play our game and come away with three points."
ELSEWHERE IN THE DIVISION
Second-placed Sheffield United will be aiming to keep the pressure on at the summit this weekend when they entertain Milton Keynes Dons. The Blades can take over at the top if they win and the leaders draw or lose.
Karl Robinson's Dons, meanwhile, are languishing down in 12th and find themselves 10 points adrift of the Play-Off places.
Swindon Town sit third, two points behind Sheffield United, and they are at home to eighth-placed Walsall, while Yeovil Town, in fourth, and fifth-placed Brentford, who are two points further back, both travel north to take on Hartlepool United and Carlisle United respectively.
Coventry City and Notts County are tied on 53 points, just outside the Play-Off places, and they are both away from home on Saturday. The Sky Blues, who remain without a manager, visit Scunthorpe United and the Magpies take their six-game unbeaten run to Crawley Town.
Oldham Athletic will be hoping Scunthorpe slip up against Coventry because they sit just two points behind the Iron, in the relegation zone. If Scunthorpe do lose, the Latics could haul themselves out of the bottom four with a victory in their match against sixth-placed Tranmere Rovers.
Colchester United are also dangerously close to the drop zone, three points ahead of Oldham, and they meet mid-table Crewe Alexandra. Shrewsbury Town and Preston North End are one point better off than the U's and will be keen to pull further away - the Shrews are at home to Leyton Orient, while Preston host Stevenage, who ended a run of six consecutive defeats with a win against Brentford in their last outing.
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