Comment: Pompey to clinch promotion with 12 wins
Paul Cook has set Pompey an 11-win target for automatic promotion.
With 20 games to play, it’s a fair and realistic target.
Throw in a few draws and the fourth-placed Blues, who currently have 45 points to their name, will have reached the 80-point mark Cook believes to be enough to break into the top three.
But looking at Pompey’s remaining fixtures, I have gone one better than the Blues boss and predicted 12 games I expect to deliver victories – with three draws and five losses for good measure.
Home form will be key, with Fratton Park needing to become a fortress.
My take on things, though, suggests fans will need to remain patient in the short term, with a three-game winless run arriving before the first win is secured (delete article from memory if Pompey triumph this weekend).
I think the Blues’ promotion push starts with a draw at Crawley.
Disappointing in the eyes of most, I’m sure, but a glance at the Red Devils’ home record this season (won seven, drawn three, lost two) and with last season’s anti-football 0-0 stalemate still fresh in the memory, I think a point’s a fair shout on Saturday.
Next up is the visit of an Exeter side who have been sensational on the road.
Nine wins from 14 games is the reason Paul Tisdale’s men – with two home league triumphs – remain in play-off contention.
They will continue that fine form – after all defeat is inevitable at some point – with victory at Fratton to get nerves jangling.
Wycombe away is arguably the hardest fixture left on the Blues’ schedule, so a draw there to follow is a decent return.
Next up is where Pompey build momentum in my entirely hypothetical League Two promotion predictor.
A run of five wins in six games begins with back-to-back home successes over Accrington and Blackpool, with three in a row claimed in a statement victory at play-off chasing Barnet.
Promotion rivals Carlisle halt that run with an undeserved triumph in the north west (more late pain) before Cook’s men return south to fortress Fratton to claim wins over Morecambe and Crewe.
Colchester away is a day to forget, though, with the U’s decent on home soil.
Defeat there is followed by another setback with Grimsby at home a draw.
Four straight wins, though, have the Blues eyeing a belated League One return.
Stevenage and Hartlepool are toppled on the road with home wins over Newport County – revenge for last season – and Yeovil sandwiched in between.
But Plymouth at home is as frustrating as last term with a loss halting the winning run – and Cook and Derek Adams in dispute after the full-time whistle!
Victory at struggling Notts County sets right the shock home defeat from earlier this term before Pompey claim their customary three-point League Two haul from Cambridge United.
That leaves two games left to confirm an automatic place – but it wouldn’t be right to do it at the first time of asking.
The Blues instead contrive to dominate but lose to Mansfield with a penalty miss compounded by an own goal.
The stage, then, is set for final-day deliverance, with Pompey sealing promotion by relegating Cheltenham on a day to savour on the south coast – with Cook’s men going up in third place on 84 points.
Now, where’s the nearest bookies?
Jeff Marshman’s Pompey run-in predictions:
Crawley (A) Sat, Jan 21 (D)
Exeter (H) Sat, Jan 28 (L)
Wycombe (A) Sat, Feb 4 (D)
Accrington (H) Sat, Feb 11 (W)
Blackpool (H) Tue, Feb 14 (W)
Barnet (A) Sat, Feb 18 (W)
Carlisle (A) Sat, Feb 25 (L)
Morecambe (H) Tue, Feb 28 (W)
Crewe (H) Sat, Mar 4 (W)
Colchester (A) Sat, Mar 11 (L)
Grimsby (H) Tue, Mar 14 (D)
Stevenage (A) Sat, Mar 18 (W)
Newport (H) Sat, Mar 25 (W)
Hartlepool (A) Sat, Apr 1 (W)
Yeovil (H) Sat, Apr 8 (W)
Plymouth (H) Fri, Apr 14 (L)
Notts Co (A) Mon, Apr 17 (W)
Cambridge (H) Sat, Apr 22 (W)
Mansfield (A) Sat, Apr 29 (L)
Cheltenham (H) Sat, May 6 (W)