The final day of the season has arrived across the EFL, with the battle for promotion and relegation going to the wire.
However in EFL League One, the top two and bottom four has already been decided. Even three of the four play-off sides have been confirmed.
But that does therefore leave one place still to fight for. And Sunday’s hosts Portsmouth are in prime position to take that all important spot as they welcome Accrington Stanley to the south coast.
Pompey boss Danny Cowley may finally be able to call upon the services of forward Jordy Hiwula after his return from a seven week ankle injury. Jack Whatmough could also return to the starting eleven after completing his four-match suspension. However Cowley remains without Ellis Harrison, Michael Jacobs and Alex Bass for this crucial clash.
In the other camp, Accrington manager John Coleman has no such injury issues, as he should be able to name his strongest side. Captain Seasmus Conneely missed their game against Charlton Athletic through suspension, but is available once again. Top-scorer Dion Charles is likely to start, aiming to finish off an impressive season.
(4-2-3-1) MacGillivray, Johnson, Raggett, Whatmough, Brown, Naylor, Close, Harness, Williams, Curtis, Marquis.
(4-3-1-2) Savin, Rodgers, Barclay, Nottingham, Burgess, Butcher, Conneely, McConville, Russell, Bishop, Charles.
Portsmouth come into the game having picked up seven points from their last three games, most recently winning 3-1 away at AFC Wimbledon thanks to a first half brace from Lee Brown. However they managed just one point from their four games before that, which is why they find themselves needing a win on the last day to secure that play-off place. Just one of their last six games have been at home, so a return to Fratton Park may be just what they need to get that all important victory.
Meanwhile Accrington have drawn their last three games, as their season has petered out into a mid-table finish. A run of just one win in seven saw any lingering hopes of a play-off place disappear, in a season that certainly started better than it has finished. However Stanley are often considered as relegation strugglers in pre-season, so they would have likely taken a ninth to 14th place finish, which is where they can still end up going into the final day.
Ones to watch
Whilst John Marquis may be Portsmouth’s top scorer, wideman Ronan Curtis has been equally as important to the club with his contribution thus far. The Irishman has 14 goals and nine assists in all competitions this season, playing a crucial part in their promotion push. That now puts him on 40 goals in total during the three seasons since moving from Derry City, which is a highly impressive tally for a winger. He’ll now be hoping that he can grab a few more to see his side into the EFL Championship.
In terms of goalscoring for Accrington, frontman Charles is leagues ahead of his teammates. The Northern Ireland international has 20 goals to his name this season, and has also chipped in with four assists. A career that was almost entirely non-league before his move to Accrington, Charles is now proving himself at a higher level, putting in performances that will no doubt attract attention from above. He hasn’t scored in his last three games, so will be aiming to change that and finish the season strong on Sunday.
These sides met in the reverse fixture less than two weeks ago due to postponements. An enthralling game saw Portsmouth come from two goals down at half-time to lead thanks to a brace from Marquis. But in the fifth minute of added time, the same man then put through his own net to see the spoils shared. That result means that Pompey have failed to beat Stanley in their last four attempts, not doing so since a 2-0 victory when both sides were in EFL League Two. They’ve met on 13 occasions in total, with the south coast side winning four to Accrington’s three, so will be aiming to make in five on Sunday.
How to watch
The game is available to watch on Sky Sports football, which kicks off at 12:00 BST.
What the managers have said
Portsmouth manager Danny Cowley spoke to the club’s media ahead of the game, insisting that he is relishing the occasion. He said:
“You live for weeks like this. Pressure is a wonderful privilege and it’s something that you have to embrace.
“We’ve earned the right for our fate to be in our own hands – and I have to credit the players for that because we arrived with the club in 10th position and without momentum.
“The best teams and players take these opportunities when they arrive and that’s what we’re aiming to do.”
In the other dugout, Accrington boss John Coleman told the club that he expects his side to play their part in the occasion. He said:
“We’ve started to hit a bit of form, maybe too late really. We’re at a stage where, with the way we’re playing, we’d like the season to go on for a few more months.
“But it is what it is, we’ll give it our best shot to try and go out on a high.
“There’s a lot riding on it for Portsmouth, but we’ve got to play for the integrity of the league, and for our own.”