Gaffer: If Portsmouth can keep calm against Sunderland, we’re on our way to Wembley

Gaffer for a Day, Olly Birch, aged 28 from Brighton, previews Pompey’s play-off semi-final first leg at Sunder...

Friday, 10th May 2019, 11:24 am
Updated Saturday, 11th May 2019, 2:55 pm

We need to capitalise on our good away form, so I’m predicting a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light.

The standard games we don’t do well in, but others, like this one, we typically tend to put in a good performance away from home.

I think back to Carlisle away in February 2017, which we won 3-0 against a high-flying team. Then there was a 2-1 victory at Peterborough earlier this season – we do well in those types of matches for some reason.

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Portsmouth will play Sunderland on Saturday. Picture: Joe Pepler

Luton and Barnsley have definitely been a class above, while Charlton have looked better than us when we’ve met, so the League One table is correct.

For that promotion spot through the play-offs, I think it’s very close between Pompey, Sunderland and Charlton. I believe we’ll get to Wembley, beyond that I don’t know.

I saw us at the Stadium of Light a fortnight ago and cannot see the game being so gung-ho from either team.

Our last few games have been a bit manic, but this will be a lot calmer, more like our usual away games, when we are solid and looking to go on the counter.

We were quite open at Sunderland last time, without Craig MacGillivray they were well away from us. I anticipate this being a lot more sold and controlled, like a Kenny Jackett side.

I would select our tried-and-tested team, bringing back the big-game players who were left out against Accrington last weekend.

That means Jamal Lowe, Brett Pitman and Ronan Curtis all starting, with Oli Hawkins as the main striker.

Hawkins gets the nod ahead of James Vaughan and Omar Bogle as he has given Sunderland problems before. He has not been great in the last few months, but I can see him hitting form.

As for Curtis, he looks like he’s buzzing around again and was good when introduced against Accrington.

Pompey (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray, Thompson, Burgess, Clarke, Brown, Close, Naylor, Lowe, Pitman, Curtis, Hawkins.