Part III of our sports writers’ Pompey predictions.
According to Jeff Marshman, Wembley beckons for Paul Cook’s side...
Pompey fans may be disheartened to hear my opinion that the Blues will miss out on automatic promotion this season.
They will, however, be boosted to learn I am useless at predictions – last week I forecast a 3-1 home win over Newport County!
It is not all bad news in any case, though, as my pessimistic view on proceedings actually results in Paul Cook’s side securing a League One spot at the home of English football.
A Wembley play-off final victory at the end of May is my tip for the season’s conclusion and, from an entirely selfish point of view, it is my preferred outcome.
To report on Pompey sealing promotion from the national stadium would be an incredible experience.
And after a roller-coaster campaign it would be fitting that the Blues put the Fratton faithful through the mill one last time before giving them a day to savour in the sunshine.
Why the play-offs, though?
Well, in truth, and by Cook’s own admission, this season the only thing Pompey have been consistent in is being inconsistent.
And their inability to string three wins together – when all around them have done so – is what I believe will prevent them from closing the six-point gap to third place.
Sitting in sixth, the Blues have to better the results of the three teams above them to achieve an automatic spot.
But with 10 games to go, that isn’t accounting for the likes of Leyton Orient or Wycombe who are closer to Pompey than Cook’s men are to the top three.
Simply put, I believe the challenge is now too great.
Looking at their past 10 fixtures, which included impressive 3-1 wins over rivals Accrington and Bristol Rovers, the Blues accumulated a 15-point total from the 30 on offer.
There were only two further wins – at Stevenage and home to Cambridge – with defeats to Leyton Orient, Barnet and Newport.
A repeat of that points haul would see Pompey end the season with 74 points – seven less than the average amount my colleague Jordan Cross calculated as needed to make the jump to League One.
The Plymouth game is obviously key to the run-in but what recent history shows is that while the Blues have the talent to win the so-called big games they often come unstuck against supposedly-lesser opponents.
And with Ryan Fulton called up to the Scotland under-21 squad this Easter, he will miss games against Notts County and AFC Wimbledon.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see one of those two opponents dent the Blues’ hopes before they then win against the Pilgrims in vain.
I hope I am wrong, but I feel Northampton, Oxford and Bristol Rovers will go up automatically, with Pompey getting the better of Plymouth, Accrington and Wycombe in the play-offs!
Mansfield v Pompey W
Pompey v Notts County D
Wimbledon v Pompey L
Pompey v Carlisle W
Dag & Red v Pompey W
Pompey v Plymouth W
York v Pompey D
Pompey v Wycombe W
Hartlepool v Pompey D
Pompey v Northampton W
Pompey to finish on 80 points - two points off the play-offs
My top three: 1 Northampton (97); 2 Oxford (83); 3 Bristol Rovers (82)