As it stands: Portsmouth 20-8–7–5 (10th, 31 pts, GD 6) | Wycombe 21-12–7–2 (1st, 43 pts, GD 15)
Form: Portsmouth WWDLW | Wycombe WWDWL
Last time out: Portsmouth 1-0 Ipswich | Oxford 1-0 Wycombe
|P||Portsmouth W||Wycombe W||D||Ave. GpG*|
*Goals per game
Previous meeting: Wycombe 1-0 Portsmouth (21/09/19, League One)
Setting the Scene
You’d think that game 22/44 would see us facing the only team we haven’t yet played – but that would be far too logical. We’ll complete the set when Coventry visit Adams Park on Sunday, but we’ll be spending Boxing Day by the sea in the reverse of September’s meeting – when we returned to winning ways after our only two-match winless ‘streak’ of the season. Having endured a slow start, pre-season promotion favourites Portsmouth have only lost twice since fans streamed out of Adams Park to a furious chorus of “We want Jackett out, say we want Jackett out!”, going seven unbeaten from late October to mid-December, while we’ve only just rediscovered what defeat feels like. This encounter constitutes the second challenge of a four-game gauntlet taking place in the space of 11 days. Oh, and Pompey stand alongside Wycombe as one of only five teams in the top four divisions unbeaten at home this season. In fact, they’ve lost just twice at Fratton Park since last Boxing Day.
Last season: 4th in League One (lost to Sunderland in play-off semi-final)
Manager: Kenny Jackett (appointed June 2017)
Top scorer: Ronan Curtis (LW/RW) – 8
Most assists: Brandon Haunstrup (LB), John Marquis (CF/ST) – 3
Captain: Tom Naylor (DM)
Style of play: Get ball wide, lots of crosses, shoot frequently
Portsmouth rank second in League One on crosses per game (26) and total shots on target (103). Wycombe’s respective figures in the same categories are 17 (ranked 22nd) and 92 (ranked 8th).
A (Slightly) Deeper Look
This is where it really gets tough. Forget four games in 11 days; it’s now all about three in seven, starting with this bound-to-be-tricky trip. Seeing as you’ll be tucking into your Christmas dinner before you know it, I’ll keep things suitably digestible!
After surprisingly setting up in a 4-1-2-1-2 at the Kassam Stadium and seeing it rather backfire, we surely have to revert to type with the 4-3-3 that we know serves us so well. Having had four days to prepare, rotation other than enforced changes (Adebayo Akinfenwa is suspended, Dom Gape came off injured on Saturday, and you’d imagine Scott Kashket will be left out after his FA misconduct charge) seems unlikely before the Coventry game on the 29th. In that case, expect to see Darius Charles and Matt Bloomfield to start.
Portsmouth – who restored order against Ipswich after a 4-1 hammering at Accrington a week before – tend to operate with a 4-2-3-1 similar to that employed by Lincoln and Doncaster but with more emphasis on getting the ball wide. Republic of Ireland international Ronan Curtis is the main danger man and was one of Pompey’s few standouts at Adams Park in September. Jack Grimmer’s return would be a big boost in trying to nullify the threat he poses – although on his day, he might as well be unstoppable – as his winner against Ipswich showed. The formerly prolific John Marquis is utilised as a 10 these days, with Ellis Harrison – who’s scored eight goals in all competitions this term – the lone striker. Harrison was sent off for his part in the fracas following Nnamdi Ofoborh’s dismissal in the aforementioned reverse fixture.
This also looks like an Alex Samuel game. Pompey’s centre-backs – likely to be Christian Burgess and Sean Raggett – are not as adept on the ball as those of other more possession-oriented sides, so having a human fruit press up front should, in theory, make them release it more quickly. Regular left-back Haunstrup is out, meaning Anton Walkes is likely to continue there. A right-back by trade, there’s a chance he may have a tendency to drift slightly inside – and any such deviation in positioning favour David Wheeler both in terms of winning aerials and making runs in behind. Behind the back four, Craig MacGillivray is one of the most consistent ‘keepers in the division, although hasn’t been massively busy lately and averages 2.2 saves per 90 over the course of the campaign – the same as Ryan Allsop.
Ultimately, we just need to stick to our philosophy – which does morph but is built on that solidity from front to back. After such a strong showing in testing circumstances at Oxford, there’s no need to bounce back as performance is concerned. A first league win in the naval city would go down a festive treat, though.
This is the Pompey 11 which started the last game, with the exception of James Bolton – who came on for the injured Ross McCrorie who has been ruled out – and Marquis, who was left on the bench. Marcus Harness and Brett Pitman – who just loves a goal against Wycombe – should also be included in the squad.
Should Grimmer still not have recovered from his knock, Sido Jombati will likely continue at right-back. The midfield could well be the same as that which started the recent win over Burton. Rolando Aarons may have an outside chance of a start, while Wheeler could also assume the target man role through the middle if necessary.
In the Middle: John Busby
Busby is back taking charge of Wanderers a little over six weeks since last doing so in our 2-0 win at Tranmere. This is his first game since the League Two clash between Forest Green and Scunthorpe early this month, in which he reached 77 yellows and five reds for the season. He last refereed Pompey in that victory of theirs at Adams Park late in 2018/19.