Portsmouth welcome Plymouth Argyle to Fratton Park in the first leg of their League Two play-off semi-final on Thursday night in what will be the Blues’ first match in this format for 23 years.
The South-Coast outfit, who slipped below the Pilgrims following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to champions Northampton, will go into the game looking to make amends for the previous encounter between the sides. Two late goals saw Paul Cook’s side succumb to a 2-1 loss that ultimately ended their hopes of automatic promotion.
While Plymouth will be tough to stop, having scored in their last nine games, they have only kept two clean sheets in their last 13, so it could be a high-scoring match.
Having said that, Argyle will be full of confidence following their 5-0 thrashing of Hartlepool at Home Park at the weekend. Tyler Harvey and Louis Rooney are both in fine form after grabbing two goals each in Reuben Reid’s absence, while the defence had a quiet afternoon themselves.
In the two encounters this season, the points have been shared with both sides picking up 2-1 away victories and, interestingly, Paul Cook’s men had more possession in the home loss, attaining 57%, yet the Pilgrims dominated in their backyard with 62%, making the play-off tie extremely hard to predict.
Looking beyond the 2015/16 campaign, the two sides have met 59 times over the years, with the Blues winning 26 times, Argyle coming out on top 24 times, and nine encounters ending in a draw. In the six League Two clashes, the statistics are just as even with two Portsmouth wins, two Plymouth wins and two draws.
Therefore, it’s all to play for with two teams that have such a famous history and such expectant fans.
Portsmouth look to have both Marc McNulty and Kyle Bennett winning their battles for fitness ahead of Thursday night’s play-off clash.
However, Matt Clarke (groin), Ryan Fulton (hamstring), Adam Webster (foot) and Alex Bass (knee) were all sidelined for Saturday’s loss to Northampton, and face an equally challenging test to be fit for the game.
Reuben Reid looks to be available for selection for the visitors having recovered from a thigh injury which has kept him out of Plymouth’s last three games.
Carl McHugh was another that missed Argyle’s last game of the season against Hartlepool, following a hamstring injury picked up the previous week at Cambridge; he is a doubt ahead of Thursday night.
League Position: Portsmouth – 6th (78 pts); Plymouth – 5th (81 pts)
Previous Meeting: Portsmouth 1-2 Plymouth (April 16 2016)
Form: Portsmouth – LWWWL; Plymouth – WWLDW
Key Men: Portsmouth – Gary Roberts; Plymouth – Reuben Reid
Shoot Says: Portsmouth 2-2 Plymouth