Will Rooney looks ahead to Pompey’s clash against Charlton and analyses the pre-match talking points...
Win or Bust?
By his own admission, Kenny Jackett knows only maximum points can yield Pompey a play-off place.
Their defeat to Bradford on Tuesday put the brakes on their top-six push and has left the Blues with no margin for error.
With six teams still vying for what looks like only two available play-off berths, and many of them still to play each other, it’s turning into a straight shoot-out.
Come May 5, it’ll be the last two men standing whose promotion charge will continue.
In the final three weeks of the season, it’s Billy The Kid, Jesse James et al all fighting it out for one of two spots.
The first duel sees Pompey face Charlton and it’s Jackett’s men who must be first to the trigger.
The Blues have the opportunity to leapfrog the Addicks – even potentially landing the killer blow to their play-off ambitions.
Jackett’s troops trail their London visitors by two points heading into the clash but have the crucial home advantage.
A win would see Pompey leapfrog Charlton in the table and move to 66 points.
The victory would give them the fillip of being able to deliver similar performances against Bury and Peterborough in their remaining games.
A draw would keep the Blues’ play-off hopes on life support but a defeat would tighten the noose around their neck even further.
In crunch matches, having any sort of edge over your opponent can be a significant advantage – no matter how big or small.
And Kenny Jackett’s troops have a key one that will be on both teams’ minds.
Pompey have already defeated Charlton twice this term, which gives them a psychological leverage in the play-off duel.
Both victories came at The Valley, too, before the turn of the year.
The first was a 1-0 Checkatrade Trophy victory on November 21, courtesy of Curtis Main’s first-half strike.
That snapped the Blues’ four-match losing streak and provided the spark to an encouraging run of nine wins in 11 matches that saw them move into the top six.
One of those successes was a second 1-0 victory against the Addicks on December 9, with Josh Magennis netting a 47th-minute own goal on the 25th anniversary of Charlton’s return to The Valley.
The previous meetings suggest tomorrow’s clash won’t be a goal fest - it could yet again be decided by a solitary goal
But the Blues’ two successes over Charlton could prove vital in the battle of the mind games.
An unhappy return
Jason Pearce played down his maiden return to Fratton Park in the build up to the encounter.
It’s been almost six years since the centre-back held aloft The News/Sports Mail Player of the Season trophy.
In a painful campaign blighted by financial troubles which would see Pompey relegated from the Championship, Pearce’s performances were one of the shining lights.
In 2012, with the Blues selling most of their bankable assets, he departed to Leeds United and has yet to return to the club he had two spells with.
There’s no doubt Pearce will be relishing the occasion and will likely get a warm reception from the Fratton faithful.
Yet he’ll be all too aware of the bear-pit atmosphere that will be created at PO4 and how big an advantage it will give Pompey.
Addicks boss Lee Bowyer insists his side can use it to their advantage.
He’s adamant his players will thrive rather than fall under the pressures of playing at Fratton Park.
But that’s been uttered before by managers previously, only for them to be proved false.