Tom Naylor: Clean sheet will earn Portsmouth a Wembley place over Sunderland
A Pompey clean sheet and Wembley is booked.
That is forecast delivered by Tom Naylor, as he pinpoints how to inflict play-off elimination upon Sunderland.
Kenny Jackett’s side trail the Black Cats 1-0 heading into tonight’s semi-final second leg at Fratton Park.
The Blues’ goal-scoring credentials certainly survive scrutiny, with 109 registered in 61 fixtures during the campaign so far.
Defensively, however, it is nine matches in all competitions without a clean sheet, while just three have arrived in their last 27 league and play-off outings.
It is a notable demise from the outstanding early-season highs of eight shut-outs and 17 goals conceded in the opening 21 League One games.
And Naylor is convinced should Sunderland be unable to breach Pompey’s goal tonight, the Blues possess the firepower to deliver the two goals required to yield a play-off final.
He said: ‘We know we’ve got goals in us, so we need to keep clean sheets. We’ve not done that over the last three or four games, which is disappointing.
‘But if we keep a clean sheet tonight, we know we’ve got goals to capitalise on that.
‘I’m not sure why we can’t do it at the moment, it’s just the way football is, but we need to get back into that.
‘We aren’t doing anything different, we’re setting up like we have been. We don’t mean to give goals away, that happens in football.
‘Everyone wants clean sheets, but it just doesn’t happen sometimes, and we have to work hard to get that.
‘If we keep a clean sheet on Thursday, we have more than enough in us to get goals.
‘We have players left, right and centre who can pop up, lots of attacking threats.’
A 2-0 success at Shrewsbury in March represents Pompey’s most recent clean sheet.
That’s one of just three since mid-December, the others arriving against Barnsley and Scunthorpe.
Although, in fairness, it took a wonderful right-footed volley from Chris Maguire to deprive Jackett’s men of a shut-out at the Stadium of Light in Saturday’s first leg.
Naylor added: ‘It was a great finish, you can’t really stop that, it is technique.
‘Tonight is not about the first whistle and then getting a goal, we have 90 minutes to get them, throughout the game.
‘We must go and win the game and see where it gets us.’