Portsmouth's six remaining fixtures and how MK Dons, Swindon, Bristol Rovers, Accrington and Wimbledon threaten their play-off hopes

Pompey’s goalless draw with Crewe on Tuesday night means their remaining six league games take on extra importance as they bid to make then play-offs.

By Mark McMahon
Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 2:45 pm
Pompey boss Danny Cowley.  Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com
Pompey boss Danny Cowley. Picture: Daniel Chesterton/phcimages.com

Here, we look that those half-a-dozen matches to determine the strength of the opposition and what is at stake for them in this intriguing battle at both ends of the League One table.

MK Dons (A) – Saturday, April 17.

Current position: 14th

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

Past five games: L D L W W

Home record against current top six: W0, D2 (Peterborough, Sunderland), L3 (Lincoln, Hull, Blackpool)

MK Dons are as mid-table as they come. Played 41, won 15, drawn 10 and lost 16.

They’re 10 points off the play-off places, so won’t get promoted.

Russell Martin’s side are also 15 points clear of the relegation zone, so it’s also safe to say they don’t have to worry about the drop.

It normal times, the old saying ‘players are already sitting on the beach’ would no doubt be rolled out by now, with the Dons having just five games remaining.

But as we know, the current football climate is far from normal.

Promotion-pushing Pompey’s goalless draw with Crewe – another side stuck in mid-table limbo – the latest to testify to that.

That followed a 6-0 thumping of the Railwaymen in the immediate build-up to the Blues’ visit to Gresty Road.

And it just so happens that the MK Dons go into Saturday’s game in similar circumstances, after they were thrashed 4-0 by Lincoln at Sincil Bank on Tuesday night.

After that game, Russell said: ‘We're in a position where we have to learn from it (the defeat).

‘We're not fighting to get promoted like they (Lincoln) are or fighting to stay in the league.

‘We're fighting to improve, we're fighting to make people better, to learn and to make sure it doesn't happen next season. We've made huge strides this season.

‘I won't come out here and be really angry, I'm sure I'll get criticised for that. But I won't get caught up in emotion about a 15 minute period in a game.’

There's plenty of fighting talk there. But at the same time there’s enough to suggest that motivation might be part of the current battle.

If Pompey are up for this game – as they should with a place in the play-off currently in their own hands – then you would expect the game to go their way.

Swindon (A) – Tuesday, April 20.

Current position: 23rd

Past five games: L L L L W

Home record against current top six: W1 (Hull), D0, L4 (Sunderland, Lincoln, Blackpool, Peterborough)

At present, Swindon are staring relegation in the face.

They’re second from bottom in the table and four points from safety.

And their cause will not have been helped any by results on Tuesday night – namely, their own 2-1 defeat at the hands of rock-bottom Rochdale, who went into the game with one win in 14.

Meanwhile, AFC Wimbledon’s 3-0 win against Ipswich and Wigan’s 2-1 victory at home to Sunderland will have completely devastated the Robins.

Indeed, both the Dons and Latics have secured maximum points from their past two games – results that have changed the relegation zone dynamic completely.

Irrespective of their own failings. the fact two of their main rivals have managed to do that, though, will no doubt provide hope that it can be replicated at the County Ground.

While the fact that Swindon have to face both Wimbledon (Saturday) and Wigan (last match of the season) in their five remaining games will give them belief that it’s far from over.

With that in mind, the Robins will be no pushovers when Pompey rock up next Tuesday.

Defeat to the in-form Dons at Plough Lane on Saturday might deflate them, though.

That’s definitely a game which the Blues will have one eye on this weekend.

Bristol Rovers (H) – Saturday, April 24.

Current position: 22nd

Past five games: D W L L L

Away record against current top six: W1 (Lincoln), D2 (Sunderland, Peterborough), L1 (Hull). Still to play Blackpool.

Just like Swindon, it doesn’t look good for Bristol Rovers.

A 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Northampton in their last outing on Saturday did them no favours, especially with Wigan and AFC Wimbledon coming into a bit of form.

Yet the downward spiral they have been on since Joey Barton took charge back in February suggests they’ll need more than favours to survive.

When the Gas took Pompey by surprise on February 16 at the Memorial Stadium, securing a 3-1 win and their first victory in eight, they sat 18th in the table.

Fast forward to now, though, and they’ve lost eight of the 13 games Barton has been involved in since he replaced the sacked Paul Tisdale, winning just three.

Only the freefalling Doncaster Rovers have worst form, meaning a quick turnaround is needed for them to get out of trouble.

But when there’s trouble, there’s always danger – and that’s something Pompey will need to be wary of when they play host to Rovers a week on Saturday.

Before that, Barton’s side take on Lincoln and then MK Dons.

The picture might have changed by the time April 24 comes around – but not enough to allow the Pirates to take their foot off the gas!

They’ll still be in the relegation mire and, just like the Blues, in desperate need of a result at Fratton Park.

Accrington (A) – Tuesday, April 27; (H) – Sunday, May 9.

Current position: 11th

Past five games: D L W D L

Home record against current top six: W2 (Peterborough, Hull), D2 (Lincoln, Blackpool), L1 (Sunderland).

Away record against current top six: W0, D2 (Blackpool, Lincoln), L2 (Hull, Peterborough). Still to play Sunderland.

Accrington will still maintain they’re very much play-off contenders – a role they’ve occupied throughout the season.

They’re currently seven points adrift of the top six, with two games in quick succession to be played against Pompey, who currently occupy that sixth place.

If they are to make a late surge, though, they’ll need to improve on patchy form that has blighted progress since mid-January.

Only six wins have been secured since then, with 10 losses also recorded – including a 5-1 defeat to relegation-threatened AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.

Immediately after that, Accy held high-flying Blackpool to a goalless draw at Bloomfield Road on Tuesday night.

That proves they can rock the boat when they like – and will be major obstacles Pompey will need to overcome twice between now and the season’s end.

Two games in the coming days against Rochdale and Doncaster – matches they would be expected to win – might also give them extra hope that a play-off place is well within reach.

AFC Wimbledon (A) – Saturday, May 1

Current position: 19th

Past five games: W W L L W

Home record against current top six: W2 (Peterborough, Hull), D2 (Lincoln, Blackpool), L1 (Sunderland).

Wigan proved tough cookies for Pompey to crack on Easter Monday.

And with AFC Wimbledon in the exact same boat as the Latics, the Blues are guaranteed another huge test of their promotion credentials when they travel to the new Plough Lane on the penultimate weekend of the season.

That task just got tougher in the past couple of days, with the Dons clawing their way out of the relegation zone with impressive wins against Accrington and Ipswich, showing they’re more than capable at this level.

However, even before that Mark Robinson’s side have proven hard to beat, with only three losses recorded since the beginning of March.

Five of those have been draws – hence their continued battle to avoid relegation. But they’re far from the pushovers that lost 4-0 at Fratton Park on January 19.

With League One being the battleground that it is – both at the top and at the bottom – there’s no guarantee that Wimbledon will be safe come May 1.

That means Pompey should mentally prepare for a huge game in west London now – a battle which might also determined their own futures.