FOOTBALL LEAGUE fanatic Tom Love (@TomLove_18) runs the rule over Thursday night's League One play-off encounter from Fratton Park between Portsmouth and Sunderland.
Portsmouth v Sunderland | Thursday 16th May 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
This tie is tantalisingly poised with Sunderland running out narrow 1-0 winners in the first leg at the Stadium of Light on Saturday courtesy of a superb volley by big-game merchant Chris Maguire. That makes the Black Cats as short as 4/11 to book their place at Wembley but with the away goals rule not applying here that does look a tad short, in my eyes.
Sunderland hung on with 10 men after Turkish defender Alim Ozturk was controversially dismissed in the second half, that decision has been overturned though and he is therefore available to play. I’m not sure it’s much of a boost for the Wearside outfit though, whoever has played in their back four has been far from convincing.
Jack Ross’ men have seen 72% of games feature both sides scoring. Their performance levels on the road are another worry, they sit 16th in the away Expected Goals (xG) standings, posting a meagre 48% ratio and that has to be cause for concern.
There are positive points for the Mackems though. The visitors have lost a league-low five League One games this season, mainly due to their penchant for draws (19), however a share of the spoils will see them progress. They’re also coming up against a Portsmouth side who’ve failed to win in their last four games.
Pompey to thrive at Fratton?
Pompey gaffer Kenny Jackett wasn’t overly downbeat after that first leg reverse. The former Wolves boss was philosophical post game, saying “It’s still evenly balanced and we have to make our home advantage count on Thursday evening. We are capable of that”.
Jackett is confident his side can thrive on what’s likely to be a raucous atmosphere on the South Coast, but he has eluded to the fact his players have been preparing for the possibilities of it going all the way. “We definitely practice penalties. We have whenever it’s been relevant this season, although we won’t dwell on it” Jackett mused.
The Portsmouth manager is right to be confident and can find solace in the underlying performance data of his side when playing as hosts. The Blues ranked second on the xG metric when looking specifically at games at their Fratton Park base with a strong 59% ratio.
Jackett will be further encouraged when looking at the oppositions aforementioned comparative metrics. What’s more, the home team could welcome back full back Lee Brown and striker Brett Pitman on Thursday night, the pair have trained throughout the week and that’s a big boost for the Hampshire club, their added experience could prove vital.
The betting angles
My main selection here is to combine two selections using Bet365’s BetBuilder and that is Portsmouth in the Double Chance market and Over 1 Goal which brings about a more than fair 10/11 quote. I do fancy the hosts to have the better of this game for all the reasons noted above, however, I am wary of the volume of draws Sunderland collect, hence the insurance of the double chance option.
I would expect at least a couple of goals too. EFL play-off semi-final second legs see a hike to 2.60 goals per-game on average compared to 2.10 in the first leg. Throw in the fact that 87% of the duos league matches this term have seen two or more goals and you can probably see my thinking.
I could easily see this one going the distance too and with the omission of the away goals rule it makes the chances of extra-time and possible penalties a very real one. I was tempted to put up Pompey to win by a single goal but I’m going to take a chance on a bigger price and plump for the 7/1 (SkyBet) on either team to win on penalties.
We’ve seen two second leg ties go all the way to spot kicks already and given the cagey nature of play-off games with such magnitude, it’s often the case that teams are naturally more risk-averse in the closing stages. There’s been little to choose between the pair all season and I can see that being the case once more.