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Portsmouth will be looking to get their play-off push back on track as they head to The Kassam Stadium to face Oxford United.
After the impressive 7-2 win over Gillingham last weekend, Oxford United provided another display of their credentials as they secured a point against Wigan Athletic during midweek to consolidate their spot in the top six.
While that result was deemed as a positive one, they had a sore takeaway from the evening in the form of both Matt Taylor and Mark Sykes seemingly feeling unwell after the game and putting their chances of featuring here at risk, although United boss Karl Robinson confirmed that they are likely to be alright to feature in this one from the off.
Deadline day signings Marcus Browne and Ciaron Brown were both not in the squad for their trip to the DW, and so may be in contention to take a spot on the bench this weekend. Having seen Karl Robinson’s side out-thought and out-muscled by the Latics midfield by way of their tactical change to put Max Power into the middle of the park, Robinson will have to ensure that his midfield does not come a cropper against another side that deploy a back-three.
If you had gone back a couple of weeks ago, Portsmouth fans would have been hoping that they could make a play for the play-off places, but fast forward to this weekend and instead they are facing a fight to try and stay in the mix for the top-half of League One, let alone the play-offs, having not won in their last five games.
Back-to-back defeats has seen them drop down to 12th in the table, and if their last game – a 2-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic on home soil – wasn’t bad enough, they had the bad news of a vertebrae facture to Shaun Williams, meaning he is set for a spell on the sidelines.
Tyler Walker made another appearance after signing from Coventry City, but once again fired a blank, and with Danny Cowley bringing on an attacking substitution in the second-half in the form of Ronan Curtis, he may well look to shuffle the pack to try and improve their fortunes going forward, having scored just once in their last three league games. Michael Jacobs came off the bench and scored, and so may be pushing for a start.
Oxford United: (4-3-3) Stevens; Long, McNally, Moore, Seddon; Brannagan, Kane, McGuane; Bodin, Taylor, Sykes
Portsmouth: (3-4-1-2) Bazunu; Carter, Raggett, Robertson; Romeo, Morrell, Jacobs, Hume; Harness; Walker, Curtis
Prediction: Oxford United 2-1 Portsmouth
Given the form of both sides at the moment, this perhaps only points one way as to a potential winner. Granted, I think that Portsmouth will give a good account of themselves as they look to improve on recent showings and push back towards the play-offs, but I just think that United are looking the slicker of the two sides at the moment and most certainly have more in an attacking sense, and that will be the difference. A 2-1 win for the hosts, with Taylor and Bodin on the scoresheet and Walker getting his first for the visitors in reply.
One to Watch: Cameron Brannagan – Pompey will need to ensure that they do not give away any penalties given he put four into the back of the net against The Gills, and the United man is a key operator in the middle of the park, with his creativity and composure on the ball perhaps crucial in opening up this Portsmouth side.