Portsmouth will be looking to retain the EFL Trophy this afternoon as they prepare to take on Salford City in the Papa John’s Trophy final at Wembley.
Pompey won this competition in 2018/19, defeating Sunderland on penalties after drawing 2-2 in normal time.
Last season, they booked their place in the 2019/20 Papa John’s Trophy final with a 3-2 win over Exeter City, and have had to wait over a year to participate in the final.
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This afternoon, they take on Salford City at Wembley hoping to retain their silverware and return to winning ways.
Pompey’s bid for automatic promotion from League One has de-railed of late, with Kenny Jackett’s side winning only one of their last seven games and losing their last three.
The onus is on Jackett to guide Pompey to a long-awaited return to the Championship this season, and winning a piece of silverware this afternoon will ease some of the pressure on his shoulders.
FLW recently caught up with EFL on Quest commentator Pat Nevin, and he discussed whether there is any extra pressure on Portsmouth to lift the trophy amid recent poor results and the fact that Salford play in a lower division.
He said: “It can work both ways. They’ll (Portsmouth) will definitely be favourites, but the pressure is all on Pompey, and they’ll know that.
“They’ll have that confidence when they walk on the pitch, but that can soon evaporate if they think ‘we’re well-matched’. I think both of the finals are quite similar in that way.
“The League One teams should be thinking ‘we should win this one’, but it’s never that easy. Having said that, looking at the statistics, the team in the higher league does win.
“Portsmouth will get a little bit of confidence out of that, but it doesn’t help if you’ve not been in great form and have had a poor run of results.”
As alluded to before, Portsmouth in the midst of a highly competitive League One play-off battle.
Jackett’s side sit fifth in the league table with only two points separating them from 10th, and in three days’ time, they take on promotion rivals Peterborough United at the Weston Homes Stadium.
A win would see Posh increase the gap between themselves and the chasing pack, and leave Portsmouth vulnerable if teams below them pick up results.
With that fixture in mind, could Jackett’s team selection this afternoon be affected by Tuesday night’s league clash?
Nevin said: “It’s almost impossible to guess that because it’s so tight in those league positions. If you look at the league positions, it could probably go all the way down to the final day of the season. So, there is a bit of a panic there, but every team is in the same situation and that’s the problem you’ve got. You’re welcome as a manager to make that decision, and you will never know whether it’s the right decision or not because it could go the wrong way.
“You could get a couple of players injured, and if you do that, you’re stuffed as you’ve made the wrong decision. It’s a cup final, it’s at Wembley, there’s no arguing about it, people will go for it. You won’t go there and think ‘we’ll take it easy’.
“You can’t do that, you have to go for it! If he does use the strongest squad he possibly can, then he better be ready for the fact that some of them will exhaust themselves, and you have to deal with it.”
Kevin Phillips/Pat Nevin will be a studio guest for Quest’s highlights of the Papa John’s Trophy Final on Sunday. Stream on discovery+