Wycombe clash is not a must-win for Pompey
Must-win games exist in cup finals or final-day relegation-deciders when an inability to achieve victory really does result in irreversible failure.
Suggestions that Pompey’s clash with Wycombe on Saturday fall under this bracket, therefore, are both premature and some way off the mark.
But given the status quo in League Two right now, defeat to the Chairboys is an almost unbearable thought for Paul Cook’s men.
More a must-not-lose one!
The Blues head into the Fratton Park clash on the back of successive league defeats – an unwanted first under Cook.
And from a position of optimism earlier this month, with automatic promotion hopes well and truly alive following the 4-1 thumping of Dagenham, Pompey are now tentatively looking over their shoulders at those below them.
Forget the top three, the only way the sixth-placed Blues are going up this season is through the play-offs.
Of course, it is still mathematically possible for Cook’s men to sneak into third spot – as the eternally optimistic fans will point out.
But the idea that three of the four teams above them will suffer a meltdown is as unlikely as it is illogical.
And that’s why Saturday’s visit of Wycombe, and indeed next Tuesday’s trip to Wimbledon, has taken on new-found importance.
The key for Pompey is to hold on to what they have.
And it is the Chairboys, in eighth place, who represent their biggest threat to relinquishing a play-off spot.
But with five points and a game in hand over Gareth Ainsworth’s side, a draw should see off their challenge.
Lose and then follow it up with defeat at seventh-placed Dons, however, and that comfortable gap would be cut to two points with two games to play this time next week.
Then things really would start to get interesting.
Play like they did at York on Tuesday night and it is a scenario that appears worryingly more viable.
But this Pompey team has the undoubted quality to bounce back from that uncharacteristic display against the Minstermen.
The most frustrating thing of all?
On their day they can be the best in the division – as away wins at top two Northampton and Accrington attest to.
For now, though, a simple point will do.
The wins can wait for Wembley.
– JEFF MARSHMAN