Focus needed as survival battle heats up

Michael Appleton has called for level heads as Pompey's Great Escape bid gathers pace.

The Blues take the next step in their survival fight tomorrow as Burnley arrive at Fratton Park.

Appleton’s side know a win could see them climb out of the bottom three if Bristol City slip up against Derby.

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Pompey will be looking to build on a run of seven points from nine at home and one of their most dominant performances of the campaign against Hull on Tuesday.

But Appleton has warned against complacency as the club battle for Championship survival.

The Blues boss pointed to the lacklustre defeat at Coventry last weekend as evidence of what can happen if Pompey take their eye off the ball.

Appleton is staying quiet on a survival points tally but is confident it can be achieved with seven games left. He believes now is the time for focus as the relegation dogfight really hots up.

Appleton said: ‘We can still reach the total (to avoid relegation) very comfortably with the games we have remaining.

‘I think it’s got to the point now where you need to look at each game and get it out of the way.

‘Hopefully, you get the performance and points you need and then you look at where you are in relation to the rest of the teams.

‘Don’t get me wrong, if I could win the next four games and we were to stay up, I’d happily go on my holidays before April 28.

‘But I’m realistic to know that if you ask me to go Forest on the last day of the season needing something to stay in the division, I’d snatch your hand off because I’m a realist.

‘Everyone is fighting for their lives. That’s why we need to concentrate on each game.

‘The other Tuesday everyone was on a high. Last Saturday we were on a low and then we were on a high.

‘If we get too carried away over one performance you can get a kick in the teeth.

‘Because of what happened last Saturday, I think it’s a time to not look too far ahead.

‘It’s natural to think if we could nick a win at Coventry and then get a win at home to Hull we could be out of the bottom three.

‘But that can then come back to smack you in the face.

‘Things will change from now until April 28 but you hope we keep a level head and keep performing like we did on Tuesday.’

Appleton was lifted by the hunger of his troops as they found their spark once more against Hull.

That was a world away from what took place at the Ricoh Arena three days earlier.

The Pompey boss now wants to see his men out of their comfort zone over the finale to the season.

Appleton said: ‘We went into the game against Coventry and it was like it was too comfortable. I didn’t like it.

‘I don’t like it when they enjoy it too much because it takes a bit of edge away from the team.

‘If you enjoy it too much there is a mistake around the corner.

‘That’s what pleased me on Tuesday.

‘We were dominant but the way we started the second half was like we were 2-0 down.

‘That’s how it’s got to be. I like a bit of edge and rawness.’