How things could change in League One promotion race with Portsmouth facing Sunderland in Checkatrade Trophy final
Fans of Pompey and Sunderland will understandably be focusing on Wembley this weekend.
The two clubs face off at the national stadium on Sunday in a bid to be crowned 2019 Checkatrade Trophy champions.
But while both the Blues and Black Cats go head-to-head under the arch, the bid for League One promotion continues.
The Blues moved up to third – above Sunderland – in the table after they beat Shrewsbury last time out.
And it’s a position Kenny Jackett’s troops will retain regardless of events elsewhere on Saturday.
However, the gap between Pompey and the top two could increase with both Luton and Barnsley in action.
The table-topping Hatters are currently on a 26-match unbeaten run in League One.
They could open up a 12-point gap between themselves and the Blues – should they win at 15th-placed Bristol Rovers.
Meanwhile, second-placed Barnsley could move seven points clear in the race for the remaining automatic promotion spot.
The Tykes needed a late strike to see off struggling Walsall last time out.
But they’ll be hoping for a more comfortable afternoon when they meet play-off chasing Coventry City at Oakwell.
Daniel Stendel’s men are presently on an impressive 19-game unbeaten streak.
And with both Pompey and Sunderland meeting in the Checkatrade Trophy final, the Tykes have a chance to make a statement in the race for automatic promotion.
Jack Ross’ Black Cats still hold the upper hand in the push for second spot, though.
When they go in search of cup glory on Sunday, Sunderland will have three games in hand on Barnsley, while also playing two less than the third-placed Blues with just a point separating them.
Should Sunderland come away with victories in their fixtures in hand against Accrington (April 3) and Burton (April 9), that would put them in a strong position in the race for second.
Lee Bowyer’s Charlton are also waiting in the wings if Pompey, the Black Cats or Barnsley slip up.
The fifth-placed Addicks entertain Bradford knowing victory would see them move to within three points of Sunderland.
But they will have played two games more.
It would also put them within four points of Pompey, having played the same number of matches.
That would hand the Blues and Sunderland a gentle reminder that there’s little room for error at this crucial stage of the season.
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