Portsmouth lost 1-0 at Fratton Park to Sky Bet League Two promotion rivals Oxford United in a closely fought encounter on the South Coast.
The first half was goalless as these two teams battled to find the upper hand with so much at stake for both sides, as only four points and two places separated these two promotion contenders before play had started.
The second half saw a lot more action as both sides opened up to try and secure the win. Portsmouth gave away a penalty as youth loan keeper Ryan Fulton brought down Oxford forward Danny Hylton, but he made amends by saving the resulting spot kick.
Paul Cook’s side failed to lift themselves from the lucky break and conceded a goal to third place Oxford in the 76th minute, as United’s new signing Jordan Bowery scored on his debut.
Pompey pressed for the equaliser but they could not break through the resolute Oxford defence and the game finished 1-0.
FootballLeagueWorld writer Anthony Yeo identifies three things we learned from yesterday’s encounter…
1) The Promotion race will go to the wire
Although Michael Appleton’s Oxford came out on top in this match, the game, and in fact the top sides, are all evenly matched, right down to Carlisle United in 10th.
Portsmouth and Accrington Stanley both have games in hand, while Bristol Rovers are only four points behind the automatic places.
A good run by any of the sides could either propel them into the top three, or secure a play-off spot.
With the top sides playing each other over the next month, the race for promotion to League One will go all the way to the end of the season.
2) Oxford need to resist selling their stars
Callum O’Dowda and Kemar Roofe are definitely two of the finest talents in League Two and, although they will undoubtedly play at a higher level during their careers, Oxford need to retain them for at least the rest of this season.
They provide goal threats for Oxford and teams are so troubled by the pair that it leaves other members of Oxford’s side free to play the expansive game we all like to see.
The money will obviously be tempting but if they sell it could unbalance their team and may make promotion bid stumble, so keeping them until the summer is vital.
3) Portsmouth loss is just a blip
Portsmouth may have lost this weekend but it is surely just a blip. They will still be one of the sides contesting promotion right up until the end of the season.
They were outstanding against Championship side Ipswich Town in the FA Cup, but they were a little flat against Oxford on Saturday.
However, they will bounce back as they are one of the stronger sides in League Two, and I still feel finishing above Portsmouth this season will mean that you are in the automatic places.
Portsmouth and Oxford fans… Where do you think your side will finish this season? Who will win League Two? Who is the best team you have played against this season? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!