Behind Enemy Lines: Inside Portsmouth

If the stakes weren’t already high enough going into Saturday’s game, Easter Monday’s draw at Peterborough cranked up the significance a little more…

Ahead of the game, safc.com caught up with Hugh Bunce, who is sports writer/editor for @PompeyNewsNow and host of the @PO4cast.

This is our third meeting this season and is arguably the most important, what have you made of our previous games this campaign?

Both of the previous games have been exciting, extremely close and followed a fairly similar pattern on how they played out. Oliver Hawkins has been an imposing figure in both matches.

At Fratton Park in December, Sunderland started strongly and had the better of the first half. This all changed in the second half aided by a clumsy red card to Glenn Loovens who brought down Hawkins.

Once again at Wembley, Sunderland came out all guns blazing and took a well-deserved lead into half-time through the talented Aiden McGeady. However, Pompey managed to turn the game on its head and dominated the second-half. Momentum will be key to this game and Sunderland needs to sustain their first-half performances.

With five teams battling for promotion, how do you see it all playing out?

The top-five teams in League One have been a different class to the rest of the league. The table does not lie and a thirteen-point gap from Charlton to Doncaster shows this. After Charlton loss to Oxford, it will be difficult for them to get automatic promotion. Barnsley have the least challenging run in, however, I fancy Bristol Rovers to steal a point on the last day of the season in front of a rowdy crowd at Memorial Stadium.

Sunderland will roll over a Fleetwood side who have nothing to play for and a Southend who are simply put, awful. Portsmouth matches up very well against Peterborough and looked comfortable at the ABAX Stadium earlier this season.

The Posh are pushing for promotion so it will not be an easy game by any measure. However, wins over Coventry and Burton retrospectively give me the confidence that Pompey will end being promoted automatically.

I have Barnsley missing out in 3rd, Sunderland and then Charlton. Two weeks ago, it looked a foregone conclusion Luton would end up League One Champions.

That all changed after a 2-2 draw with Wimbledon at home, I fancy Burton to come out victorious at home to Luton. If Pompey wins all their remaining fixtures they go up as Champions. Should I dream of Pompey winning the league?

Probably not, but I will back the lads and say Pompey steal the tile from under Luton’s nose.

Which Sunderland player are you most concerned about heading into the game and why?

Aiden McGeady is, in my opinion, the best player in the league. Talk of a fractured foot may mean he is not at 100%, which is a big loss for Sunderland.

Charlie Wyke has been in excellent form leading up to this game and I expect him to be an absolute handful for Matt Clarke and Christian Burgess. I was a big fan of Wyke at Bradford and I’m pleased he is making a success of his career at Sunderland after a slow start.

Which Pompey players should Sunderland fans be worried about and why?

Jamal Lowe is the obvious choice as the attacking wingers' pace and clutch scoring will be a handful once again for Sunderland. It will be interesting to see if Oliver Hawkins can continue to cause havoc in the Sunderland defence after Jack Ross changed both centre backs after the disappointing game against Coventry.

My main man to watch is academy graduate Ben Close or the Pompey Xavi as he is being called on the South Coast. Close will look to control the tempo of the game and can score a goal out of nowhere. His goal against Burton demonstrated this and his performances have been so critical the club have just rewarded Close with a new contract.

Finally, score prediction?

It is going to be an extremely tight game with Pompey coming from behind to win 2-1.

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