CLEAN SHEETS CAN HELP POMPEY PROSPER AGAINST SUNDERLAND IN THE PLAY-OFFS
By Site Reporter
Sunday 05 May 2019 21:15:00
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Almost inevitably, it's Sunderland who await Pompey in the play-offs. The clubs started the season as the 'big fish' who many fancied to go straight up, and they've spent almost all the campaign next to one another in the league table - even if not in the top two for the duration.

They also did battle in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley and perhaps the only surprise is that the placings in the final table will prevent them meeting under the arch again in the play-off final.

That's because they have finished fourth and fifth, so will meet in the play-off semis - with the first leg at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. May 11, and the second at Fratton on Thursday 16.

Pompey have nothing to fear - Sunderland have not beaten them in three meetings this season. Equally the play-offs and Pompey do not have a happy history - the Blues having lost at the semi-final stage in both their previous ventures into them.

Boss Kenny Jackett says the play-offs essentially turn a league campaign into a cup run and says his team should relish the opportunity.

He told the club website: 'The play-offs are a big opportunity for us and Iím looking forward to it. Itís a cup competition now and different from the league format. We have to make sure we keep clean sheets because we havenít had enough of them at home all season, which is up to the back four and keeper to organise.

'The lines have blurred a bit in recent weeks and weíve become too open at the back, without delivering through our front players.'

It was a 1-1 draw with Accrington - with their goal scored by Ben Close - that left Pompey fourth, a place behind Charlton - who will face Doncaster - and one in front of Sunderland. They also ended the week knowing that had they managed to beat Peterborough and Accrington, they'd have had enough points to finish second behind champions Luton.

Jackett made changes against Stanley and felt that was the right thing to do - hoping that a rest for Jamal Lowe will have him at his best to face Sunderland.

The manager sad: 'Weíve lacked energy at times in recent weeks and it was an emotional night on Tuesday, so we needed to freshen things up. Jamal looked very fatigued and heís a big player for us, so this little break will do him good ahead of next weekend.'

Pompey: MacGillivray; Walkes, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Evans (Pitman 74), Morris (Curtis 46), Solomon-Otabor; Hawkins (Bogle 60). Subs not used: Bass, Thompson, Haunstrup, Vaughan

Referee: Scott Duncan

Attendance: 18,439 (241 away fans)



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