Portsmouth have found a way to stay on top of the EFL League 1 table despite some iffy form since Christmas. John Mousinho’s side have the chance to go four-points clear on Tuesday night as they travel to the Kassam to take on Oxford United.
Our resident dour Pompey mush provides our preview and predictions for the match…
Being a Pompey fan has been quite the rollercoaster over the 40 or so years I’ve been on this Earth. The highs of seeing AC Milan play at Fratton Park and lifting the FA Cup have also been coupled with the lows of nearly going out of business on multiple occasions and spending far too many years down in the fourth tier of English football.
One thing though has pretty much been a constant throughout that time however, a mid-winter swoon and once more, we are very much experiencing such a blip, although the team have managed to come away from struggles at Fleetwood and Port Vale with the full haul of points. For many that is a sign of a good team, for most Pompey fans though, we just put it down to luck.
Oxford started the campaign in tip-top form and they were the early pace-setters in EFL League 1 along with Portsmouth. A change of manager though has seen their form dip somewhat, although the play-offs are still very much on the radar for the club.
Back-to-back defeats though, at home to Barnsley last Tuesday and on the road at Bristol Rovers on Saturday, have seen their progress back towards the top-six slowed down somewhat.
One of the two main differences between the two sides is up top, where Pompey have one of the top marksmen in the division. Colby Bishop hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders in recent weeks but he did put away the controversial late spot kick at Vale Park to secure all three points at the weekend.
That was his 14th goal of the campaign, whereas Oxford tend to spread it around, with five different players having found the net between six and eight times this season. So if the U’s can keep Bishop quiet, they have a great chance to get a result.
This preview is being written on Monday lunchtime and there is plenty of talk in the local media down south that Pompey could be signing two players in time to feature in this fixture.
We’ll put that to one side for now and only the potential return of skipper Marlon Pack could shake up the starting line-up from Saturday. The midfielder missed that game due to illness but there is optimism that he can return.
Terry Devlin is expected to keep his spot as a make-shift right-back and manager Mousinho will have to make a decision at left-back between the more defensive-minded Connor Ogilvie and the more attacking Jack Sparkes.
Oxford could hand a first start to forward Tyler Burey. The 23-year-old is on loan from Millwall and has featured from the bench twice since his arrival at the club. Neither Sam Long nor Joe Bennett are expected to be available.
The traders have this one as a toss-up with Portsmouth just about favourites at 6/4. You can take on Oxford at 7/4 whilst the Draw is available to back at 12/5.
BTTS (8/13) and the Over 2.5 (8/11) are odds-on, although Pompey games this season have been pretty much 50:50 on whether the Over hits, sitting at 52%. Oxford though top the pile in EFL League 1 coming in at 68%. A stat to note there. Whether I ignore it for not, well, we'll see about that...
There is no surprise whatsoever that Colby Bishop is the favourite to score anytime, although the odds of 13/8 suggest the traders are not convinced.
Bet 1 - Under 9.5 Total Corners @ 11/10
Oxford games in recent weeks haven’t been full of corners. They conceded an insane 19 in that 2-3 defeat at home to Derby County between Christmas and New Year but outside of that anomaly, the high-point has been 12 in the past eight games with four matches coming in at six or fewer.
Pompey's matches have cleared 12 corners in four-straight matches, so the recent trend for the visitors would be to back the Over with gusto. I’m going against the stats however, as my gut-feel just tells me that this is a defensive struggle, with neither side creating too many chances.
I feel the price is correct when looking at recent numbers but think we find a smidgen of value by backing the gut.
Bet 2 - Double Chance Oxford or Draw & Under 2.5 Goals @ 7/4
I know I wrote about Oxford’s fine record for hitting the Over 2.5 in the Match Odds section but having watched plenty of Portsmouth this season, I see this as a defensive struggle. Pompey have won back-to-back games on the road by the solitary goal and both of those matches were against really poor opponents, who offered very little going forward.
Oxford are a decent outfit and they are significantly better than either of Fleetwood or Port Vale. The Kassam Stadium has not been a happy-hunting ground for Portsmouth in recent years, with only one win in their past eight visits and that was behind closed doors due to Covid.
Neither a 1-0 home win or a 1-1 draw would surprise me, so I think this bet has a fair bit of value.
Bet 3 - Oxford United 1-0 Portsmouth @ 9/1
Finally, a small dabble in the Correct Score market. I've clearly hitched my wagon to a low-scoring encounter based on my previous two bets, so why not have a small stakes play in the Correct Score market?
Pompey have found a way to eke out the points in recent road games but they've been far from convincing. On paper, Oxford are the best side they've faced on their travels this year and it isn't even close. Pompey don't concede many but they also have struggled in front of goal. A 1-0 home win at such a big price feels worth a play.
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