Four teams in Sky Bet League One are set to battle it out for a chance to play Championship football next season. The Play-Off action begins at Fratton Park on Friday night, as Portsmouth entertain Oxford United, before moving north to the Fylde Coast, as Fleetwood Town welcome Wycombe Wanderers to Highbury.
With just one point separating the sides in the regular season, all teams involved are very evenly matched and with no competitive football for the last three months, it would be fair to say that results are completely unpredictable.
Portsmouth v Oxford United (Friday 3 July - 17:30)
The first of the Semi-Finals in League One takes place at Fratton Park on Friday evening, as fourth and fifth place are set to lock horns in competitive action once again.
There was nothing to separate these two teams in the league standings bar goal difference, which Oxford shaded by seven goals, with both outfits finishing the regular season on 60 points apiece.
Head-to-head’s this season can’t separate them either, both league fixtures ending as a draw. An additional game between the two sides came in the Leasing.com Trophy, but that also ended level. In fact, only Coventry City and Rotherham United - who both sealed automatic promotion - have won more league games than both Portsmouth and Oxford this season, setting this Semi-Final up nicely for the neutral.
As well as securing their Play-Off spot, a highlight for Pompey this season has been their Leasing.com Trophy run. Kenny Jackett’s side made the Final for a second consecutive season and - prior to the Final being postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic - are looking to become the first team in the history of the competition to win back-to-back Finals.
Pompey’s home form has also been a huge talking point in League One this season as, prior to the curtailment of the regular season, Kenny Jackett’s side were without a loss at Fratton Park, winning 12 and drawing six of their 18 games played.
Striker Ronan Curtis has been a threat to opposition defences all season, as he leads the goalscoring charts at the club with 11 goals to his name.
Neither Portsmouth or Kenny Jackett are strangers to the Play-Off occasion, this will in fact be Pompey’s third Play-Off campaign in the last five years across all EFL divisions. However, they have never progressed to the Final, losing in the 2015/16 Play-Offs to Plymouth Argyle, before losing out to Sunderland in the Semi-Finals last season.
As a manager, Kenny Jackett has also taken part in four Play-Off campaigns, progressing to the Final on three occasions (only failing to do so last season with Pompey). He’ll be hoping to rectify that this time around.
Karl Robinson’s side have been outstanding in league action this season and were in touching distance of the top two teams, with James Henry and Matty Taylor bagging 25 goals between them. In fact, only Ivan Toney of Peterborough United had a direct hand in more League One goals this season than the Oxford midfielder (21 - 12 goals, 9 assists).
Early season results against Lincoln City amongst others, as well as seeing off Premier League side West Ham United in the Carabao Cup, set themselves up for an impressive 2020, which included five wins on the spin before football was postponed across the country.
This will no doubt be a special occasion for Oxford, who are competing in their first-ever Play-Off campaign in the history of the club’s existence. Stats favour them heading into the campaign, with the team finishing in fourth place being promoted more times in the last ten League One season’s via the Play-Offs than any other position.
Fleetwood Town v Wycombe Wanderers (Friday 3 July - 19:30)
From Fratton Park to Highbury, Fleetwood Town take on Wycombe Wanderers in the second game of the night. With the Chairboys finishing in third and the Cod Army finishing in sixth, both teams will pay no attention to league standings in these next two matchdays, with only one point separating them in the regular season.
Joey Barton’s side hold the ‘bragging rights’ for now, as they walked away with all three points when the two teams met back in February, a solitary goal from Paddy Madden was enough to seal the win, despite being down to 10-men.
The Irish striker has been pivotal to Joe Barton’s plans this season, finishing the regular season with 15 league goals to his name, only second on the top scorers list behind Peterborough United’s Ivan Toney who finished with 24.
With quality and experience such as Paul Coutts, Ched Evans and Glenn Whelan in their ranks, those big-game players could be the difference in getting Fleetwood Town to the Championship for the first time in their history.
There may have been a three month break from competitive football, but Fleetwood go into the game on a 12-game unbeaten run (W6, D6). In fact, Joey Barton’s side haven’t lost at home since October 2019, and are also unbeaten in 12 game on home soil. They’ll be hoping to pick up where they left off in March.
Wycombe Wanderers continue to receive plaudits for their style of play this season, which saw them top the table for a period of time in the division.
Despite interest from elsewhere, manager Gareth Ainsworth has stayed faithful to the Chairboys and they have gone from strength to strength under his guidance this campaign. In fact, their third-place finish in League One is their highest-ever in English football, with the Chairboys making their first-ever appearance in the third-tier Play-Offs.
Since the 2006/06 season however, Wycombe have been unsuccessful in each of their three Play-Off campaigns (2005/06, 2007/08 and 2014/15).
Adebayo Akinfenwa continues to cause opposition defences problems, he’s the Chairboys' top scorer this season with 10 goals to his name. He has also scored in each of his last two Play-Off appearances in the EFL - both for AFC Wimbledon in the 2015/16 campaign, including a goal at Wembley against Plymouth Argyle in the Final.