Redknapp wants return to Fratton fortress

April 7, 2006

Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp has asked his players to turn Fratton Park into the 'fortress' of old over the next eight days when they have three home games vital to their ambitions of staying in the Premiership.

Sixth-placed Blackburn are first up tomorrow, followed by Champions League semi-finalists Arsenal in a rearranged game on Wednesday and then UEFA Cup battlers Middlesbrough three days later.

'They are three tough games but we've just won three on the spin, two of them away, and now we've got a big home advantage,' Redknapp said. 'We've closed a gap of eight points and that's a lot at this time of the season.

'Now it is simply a matter of which one finishes with the greater number of points between us, Birmingham and West Brom.

I'm not thinking about Arsenal or Middlesbrough yet. It is still just Blackburn, Blackburn, Blackburn. They are riding high in sixth placed and the league table doesn't lie.

'But what we've got to do is make Fratton Park the fortress it used to be when we stayed up two years ago. Five of our last seven matches are at home but in 10 days time over Easter we'll have a lot clearer picture of whether we'll do it again.'

Only Everton and Manchester United have won at Fratton Park in the league since Redknapp returned from local rivals Southampton in December.

Pompey have pulled off valuable wins over West Brom, Fulham and Manchester City and taken a point each from West Ham and Bolto.

Last week they beat Fulham again, this time at Craven Cottage, although the atmosphere was more like a home fixture.

Redknapp said: 'We had 5,000 fans there and the backing they gave us made it feel more like home match.

'We are going to need lots more of that fantastic support for the rest of the season. All we ask is for our crowd to give us the support they always do.'

Redknapp added: 'It is certainly a better place to be working when we are winning. It can be a pig of a job when it goes the other way.'

Redknapp admits he has had 'some setbacks' this week and may have to make changes in the starting line-up for the first time in four games.

Striker Benjani Mwaruwari, the £4.4million record club buy from Auxerre who is yet to score in nine games, has cartilage trouble in a knee and is a doubtful starter. French defender Noe Pamarot is out for the season with a hamstring tear. Redknapp revealed 'one or two other knocks have been suffered in training'.

Bulgarian striker Svetoslav Todorov stands by for only his second start of the campaign, although he has scored twice coming off the bench.

Fit-again club captain Dejan Stefanovic could make a comeback after coming off the bench against Fulham last week.