Appy: Make me a believer

Pompey manager Michael Appleton
Pompey manager Michael Appleton

Michael Appleton geared up for Pompey’s survival D-Day and told his battlers: Make me believe.

The Blues head into their latest must-win showdown against Derby tomorrow with their Championship status still hanging by a thread.

Anything less than three points at Fratton Park will condemn Appleton’s men to League One.

And they know they are reliant on Barnsley stopping Bristol City from winning to keep alive their faint hopes of staying up.

Appleton is refusing to get whipped up into a Great Escape frenzy, with the odds firmly stacked against Pompey pulling off a miraculous feat.

The 36-year-old warned his men they need to stay focused on delivering their third win on the bounce for the first time this season – and not events elsewhere.

He admits taking their survival fight to the final day would convince him the ‘impossible’ could be achieved.

Appleton said: ‘It’s Bristol City’s to throw away. I’ve said that.

‘That’s not being disrespectful to Barnsley in any shape or form.

‘Bristol City have a home game to guarantee their place in the Championship.

‘If they could have hand-picked a side to face, it would probably be Barnsley due to the form they are in at the minute.

‘I’m sure they will go there with a professional attitude and give it their best shot, as all teams would do under the circumstances.

‘People probably think I’m deflecting from it but, first and foremost, we have to win our game.

‘If we lose the game and then found out coming off the pitch that Bristol City had lost or drew, that would be a kick in the teeth. So we have to take care of that.

‘If we got beyond this weekend and got to the Forest game, you might be able to start twisting my arm a bit that there’s a possibility of it happening.

‘But at the minute I’m trying to be professional, focused and trying to get us to finish on as big a high as we possibly can.

‘If it goes to the last game I wouldn’t put anything past us.’

Form has to be turned massively on its head at Ashton Gate, with Bristol City unbeaten in six matches going into the clash with off-colour Barnsley.

The Tykes have won just one of their past 13 games and are assured of their place in the Championship next season. But Appleton reckons the fortune which has often deserted his men this term is now going their way, after two deflected goals against Crystal Palace on Tuesday.

He thinks delivering a performance full of pride in the final home game of the campaign is a key factor.

Appleton said: ‘Maybe it’s our time to have a bit of a rub of the green.

‘I’m not sure if it will be enough because we need results to go for us elsewhere.

‘From the players’ point of view, they have to finish the season with pride and dignity.

‘If we pick the points up I’ve told them they can look at themselves in the mirror come the end of the season.

‘If it’s the worst-case scenario, they can say they gave it as good a shot as they possibly could.’