PORTLAND United boss Brendon King remains guarded ahead of facing Shaftesbury in the Sydenhams Wessex Premier Division at the Weyline Stadium tonight (7.45pm).

Under King’s reign, the Blues occupy third place in the standings and could rise to second with a victory over the struggling Rockies.

Shaftesbury’s poor results this season have seen their league position erode to 17th, and the north Dorset side are currently on a run of three defeats in four games.

But King, whose side beat the Rockies 3-0 at Cockrams earlier in the season, confessed his surprise at the troubles of the north Dorset outfit.

He told Echosport: “They gave us a hell of a game at their place, to be fair. For a few periods of the game they were the better side without really creating any chances.

“We weren’t at our best but we came away with a 3-0. They’re a funny team, they can beat anyone on their day. Then, you look at their results and they’re not great.

“It’s going to be tough. Hopefully we can get back to winning ways.”

Portland suffered with postponements last week, first seeing their battle at Lymington Town called off for a second time in seven days due to rain shortly after arriving at the Linnets’ ground.

The Blues then lost their fight against the snow and ice when their home clash with Lymington fell victim to the elements early on Saturday morning.

Last time out, Portland lost 3-2 to fellow title hopefuls Horndean and the Shaftesbury game precedes a mouthwatering clash with runaway leaders Sholing on Saturday.

King said: “It will be nice to get a game under our belts, first and foremost. We haven’t played for a little while with games being called off.

“(Sholing) had a great win in the FA Vase (3-1 against Sporting Khalsa) on Saturday and we’ve got a tough run of games coming up.

“Looking at our fixtures ahead we’re going to be up against it, but it’s the

business end of the season now.

“There’s not long, we’ve only got three months left so we’re going to cram games in because we’ve had games called off.

“It’s going to be a lot of hands on deck and

everyone’s needed to get us through the course of the season.

“We’ll just see how it takes us and see where we finish. They’re all big games.”

Portland will be without Ryan McKechnie (suspension) but winger Ed Bastick and centre-back Lewis Whyton give the Blues a boost with their returns.

King said: “Ed comes back in – he was unavailable on Saturday – and Lewis will be back as he was unavailable as well.

“I had Ross Carmichael playing (on Saturday) because Dorchester was called off and they gave him permission to play, but they won’t let him play (against Shaftesbury), which is a bit frustrating.”