PORTSMOUTH boss Danny Cowley admits his side must get "closer" to Saints in the league pyramid to enhance the rivalry between the two clubs.

Cowley took charge at Pompey in March, but was unable to guide them to promotion out of League One, narrowly missing out on a play-off spot.

It means the Hampshire club will once again compete two divisions below Saints this season.

The south coast rivals last competed in the same league during the 2011-12 Championship campaign.

They have only met once since, with Saints romping to a 4-0 triumph at Fratton Park in September 2019 in the EFL Cup.

"I like rivalry. I think it's a good thing, it drives the standards," Cowley told the Portsmouth News.

"I think, for us, we are proud of this club and our island.

"The people of Portsmouth are focused enough on our club doing well and that's what they want."

During pre-season, former Saints midfielder Jake Hesketh has been on trial with Pompey, featuring in two of their friendlies.

Discussing the possibility of upsetting some supporters by signing a former Saints academy graduate to a permanent contract, Cowley added: "They (the fans) want us to do well and what we have to do is make some intelligent decisions.

"What I will always remember is this football club is the people's club and will never make decisions that will upset them. Ultimately, they are what this club stands for.

"We know about the rivalry, we respect the rivalry - I actually embrace the rivalry.

"What we need to do is get closer to them in the division so we can make it a more competitive one."

Portsmouth have also been linked with a move for Josh Sims, who left Saints this summer.