The defensive stats behind AFC Wimbledon’s recent success which Portsmouth must overcome

Pompey will be need to break down Wimbledon’s sturdy-looking defensive structure to keep their promotion dreams alive.

Saturday, 1st May 2021, 9:00 am

The Blues go into today’s must-win match needing to claim maximum points to stand a chance of making it to the play-offs.

But they face an in-form AFC Wimbledon outfit who still need a point to guarantee their safety.

The Dons haven’t lost in their past six games, and have scored 12 goals in their last four at New Plough Lane.

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Wimbledon defender Will Nightingale. Picture: James Chance/Getty Images

Striker Joe Pigott is their star man, finding the net 21 times in 50 appearances and leading his team’s recent charge out of the drop zone.

Danny Cowley also pointed out Jack Rudoni and Ollie Palmer as players to keep an eye on.

But aside from their attacking threats, it is their defensive shape that could cause Pompey concern at Plough Lane – a set-up which may frustrate the Fratton faithful.

According to football data platform Wyscout, Mark Robinson’s men have the highest number of interceptions in League One.

His side average 47.21 blocks per 90 minutes, and look to sit a lot of defenders behind the ball.

And even though the Dons have conceded 67 goals this season – the seventh highest in the division – their defensive blueprint will be taxing on the Blues’ attackers.

AFC Wimbledon average 68.71 defensive duels per 90 minutes (second in League One), and they win back possession 61.3 per cent of the time when these tackles are made.

They are proven to compete for the ball in the air aggressively as well, having the sixth highest number of aerial duels per match (58.41) in the division.

Defensive stalwart Will Nightingale is the main cause of these crunching challenges.

He commits 7.66 defensive duels per 90 minutes on average, winning the ball 74.14 per cent of the time.

Supporters will be hoping for an early goal, otherwise the match could turn into a slog.

Pompey will have to be on their guard and not get wound up by a rigid defensive set-up.

They’ll be expected to deal with aggressive challenges and a counter-attacking approach from their opposition.

Wimbledon have the third-highest long-pass percentage in League One (57.5 per cent).

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Pigott is the main outlet for these direct passes, and the Blues have fallen foul of this approach before in the playoff run-in.

Pompey’s attacking talents failed to break down Burton Albion in a 2-1 defeat, where the opposition dropped deep and counter-attacked through direct passes, going long 28.03 per cent of the time.

The only way to exploit Wimbledon’s game plan is to play through a packed defensive line, or shoot regularly from distance.

Pompey’s hosts have conceded 10 goals from outside the penalty area.

The last Blues goal from such a distance was Andy Cannon’s thunderbolt against Wigan Athletic.

Cowley will be hoping for one player to replicate that screamer today to secure the three points required.

- Freddie Webb