The match-winning impact of Portsmouth and Oxford's substitutions with quota increased for play-offs

The Fratton Park battle is soon to commence.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 7:00 am

Pompey will finally restart their League One promotion bid when they face Oxford United in the play-offs semi-finals.

The Blues are just three games from making a return to the Championship for the first time since 2012.

However, the coronavirus crisis means football’s not quite like we knew it before lockdown.

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Social distancing is still adhered to where possible, with drinks breaks midway through each half in place after the best part of a four-month hiatus.

Another major difference is that teams are able to make five substitutes per game, compared to the usual three.

In addition, numbers on the bench have increased from seven to nine.

Indeed, the changes Jackett and opposite number Karl Robinson make could prove key in the quest for the second tier over two legs.

Pompey boss Kenny Jackett, left, and Oxford counterpart Karl Robinson.

Fresh legs at the right time will be necessary, as will tactical switches in pursuit of victory.

And comparing the two managers' records this season, it is Jackett’s substitutions that have had a bigger impact overall.

The Pompey boss’ switches have resulted in 10 goals in total – with six points accrued in the process.

Jackett’s decision to withdraw John Marquis for Ellis Harrison at half-time on his return to Doncaster in October proved a pivotal one.

The former Bristol Rovers man’s header in the dying embers of the Keepmoat Stadium clash clinched the Blues a smash-and-grab 2-1 victory.

There was also the decision to, this time, bring on Marquis against AFC Wimbledon at Fratton Park in January – a move that yielded Pompey another three points.

Just eight minutes after being introduced, the striker fired the hosts’ match-winner in a 2-1 success.

What’s more, substitutions have been instrumental to three cup victories this term, with winning goals produced as a result.

Brett Pitman notched the Blues’ winning goals against Crawley in the Leasing.com Trophy in September, after replacing Gareth Evans at the interval.

And while it’s highly unlikely that the ex-Bournemouth man will be on the bench to face Oxford, he also bagged a stoppage-time intervention to avoid an FA Cup second-round replay against Altrincham in November.

The other key goal from a man who started on the bench was in the dramatic 3-2 Leasing.com Trophy final triumph against Exeter.

Marquis came on in the 24th minute to replace an injured Harrison – and it was his 96th-minute header that sent Pompey back to Wembley.

Meanwhile, Marcus Harness has come on to net in wins against Southend and MK Dons, Harrison bagged at Walsall, Marquis against Shrewsbury and Steve Seddon struck Pompey' second in a 3-0 home win over Rochdale.

In comparision, Oxford have recorded 13 goals from substitutes – yet they helped amass just four League One points.

Both were through Dan Agyei, who has primarily been used as an impact sub this season.

The forward climbed off the bench to score in a 2-2 draw at Burton in February and then in a 3-2 success at Shrewsbury a week later.

There have also been two cup games when Robinson’s subs have made the difference.

James Henry’s 90th-minute penalty grabbed the U’s a late equaliser against Millwall in the Carabao Cup second round and they went on to win the shootout.

Meanwhile, Cameron Brannagan was introduced to score the equaliser in a 2-1 Leasing.com Trophy triumph over Norwich under-21s in September.

A criticism of Jackett last season was that he didn’t utilise his substitutions well enough.

After all, Ronan Curtis was left on the bench in the second leg of last term’s play-off against Sunderland.

Nevertheless, this season he’s proved he’s capable of making match-winning switches when required.