This article is part of Football League World’s ‘The Verdict‘ series, which provides personal opinions from the FLW writers regarding the latest breaking news, teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Portsmouth play host to Oxford United in the first if the League One Play-Off semi-finals.
It’s set to be a close game between two teams who have been competing in and around the higher echelons of the League One table for the majority of the season.
Karl Robinson’s Oxford side finished the campaign in fourth spot, level on points with Pompey who finished in fifth when the curtailment came into effect.
So, who is going to win this match tonight?
The team here at FLW offer their predictions….
For me, whoever wins this tie overall will win the whole thing so it’s so important for both sides to get off to a winning start this evening.
Oxford were flying before the break and scoring goals for fun, whilst Portsmouth have been here before last season and have plenty of experience in their side.
I’d not be shocked by any scoreline but I will go for Pompey to get a narrow home win, and that will set things up nicely for the return leg.
In my eyes, this one goes all the way to penalties in the second leg as well.
This, like the other play-off semi-final, is extremely hard to call, not least because of the fact it has been almost four months since they were both in action last.
Only goal difference separated these two on the back of the regular season being curtailed, which makes it even tougher to call; Oxford were in great form prior to that curtailment, but how will the break have affected them?
Portsmouth have home advantage in this one and will be desperate to get back into the Championship this season, which may or may not work in their favour.
It’s hard to not sit on the fence and call for a draw, but I will go with home advantage in this one and back a narrow Portsmouth win.
However, as we saw with the League Two play-offs, expect anything.
I’m going to go for a 1-1 draw.
Despite the lack of atmosphere in the ground, I can see Portsmouth being used to their pitch and their surroundings, which will undoubtedly give them an advantage heading into the first leg, and in the likes of John Marquis and Ronan Curtis, they have players who can produce a bit of magic from out of nowhere.
But Oxford are a well-drilled, solid, organised unit who won’t make things easy for Pompey in any way shape or form, and they have players such as James Henry who possess real experience and will relish these types of games.
Both sides will go out and attack, and I think they could end up cancelling each other out tonight, leaving the prospect of a really exciting second leg.
Portsmouth will sneak a win I think.
Pompey have struggled for consistency in their performances at times this season, but I think they’ll be keen to get the job done in achieving promotion, after narrowly missing out in last year’s campaign.
Kenny Jackett’s side have experience of playing in matches of this magnitude, and I think that will give them the edge of Oxford in this one.
But Oxford are certainly a team that can trouble Pompey on their day, with both sides playing out a 1-1 draw in their last meeting at Fratton Park.
Portsmouth will be up for this one, and if Ellis Harrison can get the better of Rob Dickie here, then I struggle to see Oxford being able to contain them.
This looks like a really exciting tie and you feel whoever comes out of it will be the favourites to win the play-off final and secure promotion to the Championship.
Kenny Jackett has taken plenty of stick this season but his team have fought their way back to the play-offs and are going to be determined to make the most of their chance this time around.
They’d stumbled a little before the break, while Oxford were in dazzling form.
The question is going to be are they going to be whether they can carry any of that momentum into this game, given it’s been nearly four months since their last game.
I think this one is going to be a really cagey one, with both sides look to ensure they don’t lose the tie in the first leg.
I think Oxford are going to nick and take a 1-0 lead back to the Kassam.