Football: Opening for Portsmouth

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The Independent Online
THE CONTEST for promotion in the First Division gives Portsmouth, third in table, a clear opportunity to close the gap on Newcastle United and West Ham United, who both play tomorrow. With home advantage over Oxford United today and an important victory against Tranmere Rovers in midweek when the two top clubs lost, the South coast club could displace West Ham, if only for a day, should they win by three goals or more.

However, the transfer of the Welsh international, Gavin Maguire, to Millwall this week has given the Portsmouth manager, Jim Smith, selection problems for the vital promotion meeting. Maguire was due to play in the defensive role normally taken by Kit Symons, who is still recovering from an ankle injury. Bjorn Kristensen, who completed a pounds 120,000 move from Newcastle on Thursday, may be moved from midfield.

While Portsmouth aim high, lowly Luton hover one point away from a relegation place. They are troubled by suspensions and injury for the relegation meeting against fellow strugglers Cambridge United, who are one place above them on goals scored.

With Julian James and their leading scorer, Phil Gray, suspended and David Preece kept out of the midfield with flu, Luton have recalled the veteran midfielder, Chris Kamara, from his loan spell at Middesbrough and included the youngsters, Tony Thorpe and John Hartston, who have yet to start a league game. Kevin Bartlett, Cambridge's pounds 60,000 signing from Notts County this week, is likely to start as substitute.

Gary Blissett's second-half goal in the win at Grimsby on Tuesday ended Brentford's goal famine and a run of seven consecutive defeats. The west London club takes on Glenn Hoddle's promotion-chasing Swindon at Griffin Park, intent on reversing the sequence of having lost all eight home games this year.

Brentford, however, go into the match boosted by two wins over Swindon this season and by this week's signing of the former England full-back, Kenny Sansom, and the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper, Gerry Peyton, both from Everton.

Leicester City are also in the business of improvement, with six wins in a row. So much so that they are on the brink of their best winning run for 30 years and if they beat Charlton Athletic it will equal the club record for consecutive League victories last achieved in 1963.

A crowd of 40,000 is expected for the final of the Anglo-Italian Cup at Wembley where Derby County meet Cremonese, from Serie B. Bringing the trophy back to the Baseball Ground could depend on Marco Gabbiadini's fitness. The forward has scored five goals in the competition, but aggravated an ankle injury in the midweek defeat at his former club, Sunderland.

Derby, though, face a tough test against the northern Italian team, who have yet to lose a match in the Cup and are in a position to regain the Serie A place they lost last season.

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