Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett is aiming to lead Pompey to Play-Off victory for the first time in the club’s history.
Having competed in the Play-Offs on three occasions in the last five years across all EFL divisions, Portsmouth are yet to win a Play-Off fixture, failing to reach the Final in each of the three previous campaigns.
As a manager however, Jackett has competed in four Play-Off campaigns, progressing to the Final on three occasions - only failing to do so with Pompey last season, but the Portsmouth manager says his Portsmouth players are raring to go ahead of Friday’s Sky Bet League One Play-Off Semi-Final against Oxford United, and that records are there to be broken.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to be able to get into the Championship,” he says speaking to the EFL ahead of the game.
“It's what we have worked so hard for this season and now we are there."
Pompey and Oxford finished with exactly the same points tally in the regular league season, and Jackett is delighted to get the opportunity to fight for a place in the Championship next season.
“There was obviously a little bit of a delay with Sky Bet League One sorting itself out, but we understand that and we are really looking forward to getting back playing.
“Ourselves and Oxford had exactly the same points in the final league standings, and if you look from maybe 2nd to 11th it has been really tight in League One.”
Karl Robinson’s Oxford United make the 86-mile journey from the Kassam Stadium to Fratton Park on Friday night, somewhere Portsmouth have not tasted defeat since April 2019, having gone 19 games unbeaten on home soil in the league. Of course, with games being played behind closed doors, Friday night’s experience will be a unique one and with that Jackett is also aware of the threat the opposition possess.
“The fans always help us, we have fantastic fans that always contribute to our performance. The reason we are where we are this season is because of them,” he admits.
“We’ll have to adapt of course because they won’t be at Fratton Park cheering us on, but whoever adapts the best to behind closed doors football will come out on top.
“We are very aware of the quality that Oxford have in their ranks, they are a very good outfit and I don’t think you can really pinpoint one threat because they have so many.
“But we have quality and strengths as well, and we have to make sure that we play to our maximum and concentrate on ourselves.
“You can't think too much into what the opposition is going to do, you have to set up a constructive plan of what you are going to do and how you’re going to play to your strengths.”
The two sides have faced each other twice this season already, once in the Leasing.com Trophy group stages and once in league action, with both games ending level.
In fact, only the top two sides in League One - Coventry City and Rotherham United - won more League One games than both Portsmouth and Oxford this season.
“The game at Fratton Park was a close one,”Hackett continues. “We had a 1-0 lead but they got a late equaliser from Matty Taylor. It was a good quality game and you could tell then that both sides would be there or there about.
Portsmouth missed out on the Play-Off Final last season after defeat to Sunderland AFC in the Semi-Finals, and Jackett will be hoping to go one step further this time around, having taken part in four Play-Off campaigns as a manager prior to Friday night.
Pompey of course are also no strangers to Wembley, having won there as recently as April 2019, in the EFL Trophy.
“We’ve shown consistency over the past couple of seasons with getting into the Play-Offs, and I felt last season we ran out of steam a little bit, but this is a different occasion, there’s been a long break, we’ve come back raring to go. I think the players are in a different place now then they were at the end of last season heading into the Play-Offs.”
“It’s always a great occasion,” he continues, discussing the prospect of getting to Wembley.
“It’s a one off day and I’m delighted we could win there last season. And now we want to do everything we can to get there in a Play-Off Final. It would be different with no fans for sure, but the day can’t be forgotten.
“I’ve experienced a Play-Off Final win before with previous clubs I’ve been at and I’ve been delighted to be involved. If you get there, it not only means you’ve done something right but it’s an occasion to remember. No one wants to be on the losing side at Wembley."