JAMES Beattie can expect a hostile reception at Fratton Park tomorrow, but he believes the return of striker Kayode Odejayi can help Accrington Stanley pull off an upset at Portsmouth.
Pompey hosted AC Milan in the UEFA Cup only five seasons ago but tomorrow Stanley will be the visitors for a League Two fixture, with the 21st-placed Reds sitting only two places below them in the table.
The south coast side have still been getting average gates of more than 15,000 this season and many of those fans will have something to say about Beattie’s arrival at Fratton Park, after seven years as a Southampton player.
Beattie once scored in a 3-0 derby win over Portsmouth in 2003 but this time he will be on the touchline, watching Odejayi lead the line for his Stanley side.
Odejayi joined Accrington on loan from Rotherham for the rest of the season only hours into the New Year, and scored in the 3-1 defeat at Fleetwood later in the day.
The 31-year-old target man impressed during a temporary spell at Stanley earlier in the campaign, but could not feature in any of the club’s December fixtures because his maximum 93-day loan had expired.
Odejayi was always expected to return in January, having fallen out of favour at Rotherham.
“It’s a huge positive to have him back,” said Beattie. “I believe we missed his physical presence for the last few matches.
“He’s a great character in the dressing room and I want us to be able to play a number of ways.
“One of those ways is playing direct to Kay and getting support up to him quickly. He gave us that extra dimension that we were missing early in the season.
“If we’d had him at the start, or someone of that ilk, then we wouldn’t have got off to that bad start.”
Stanley were cast adrift at the bottom of the table after taking only one point from their opening eight games – that point coming in a 2-2 draw at home to Portsmouth.
But they have since climbed out of the relegation zone and Beattie believes they can bounce back from the loss at Fleetwood and continue to move up the table.
“We’ve got to pick ourselves up, we’ve got a massive game on Saturday,” he said.
“The lads have played 14 games now they’ve won six, drawn five and lost three. To win the championship you expect to get two points a game and we got 23 points in those games.”
Beattie is assessing the fitness of Nicky Hunt, who limped off injured at Fleetwood. But Michael Richardson has returned to Newcastle at the end of his loan.