It’s Sunderland in the play-offs as Accrington hold Lacklustre Pompey

Portsmouth 1-1 Accrington Stanley

A DISAPPOINTING end to the regular season means Pompey head to the Stadium of Light next weekend for the first leg of play-off clash with Sunderland.

It will be the fourth and fifth games between the two sides this season after Portsmouth’s Checkatrade Trophy win against the Wearsiders – Pompey are unbeaten against Jack Ross’s men – with Saturday night’s draw against Accrington Stanley meaning Kenny Jackett sees his charges finish the season in fourth place.

The first leg is next Saturday night at 7.30pm with the return at Fratton Park a week on Thursday in what is sure to be an intense clash between two clubs desperate to get back into the Championship.

The effects of the home defeat to Peterborough that ended automatic promotion hopes on Tuesday was clearly a factor in a display that was awful in the first half.

They went behind to a Sean McConville strike 44 seconds into the second half only for man of the match Ben Close to equalise with a well-taken goal on the hour mark.

Close then hit the crossbar as Pompey looked for a winner, but the draw saw them drop below Charlton who hammered Rochdale 4-0.

The five changes Jackett made showed his eyes were firmly on the play-offs – Jamal Lowe dropping completely out of the matchday squad with Brett Pitman and Nathan Thompson on the bench.

The game itself was very much in the mould of an end of season encounter between two sides with little to play for.

What was clear from kick-off was Jackett’s team’s intensity and quality was missing. The game was flat and so was the atmosphere with neither fans nor players able to raise the other.

Accrington came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half with a McConville header coming back off the crossbar.

Christian Burgess wasted Portsmouth’s best chance of the first 45 minutes, heading wide a free-kick from Gareth Evans.

The atmosphere, however, did heat up shortly after the restart for all the wrong reasons as McConville put the visitors ahead with a great curling strike from just outside the area.

Pompey should have been level shortly after but Oli Hawkins somehow failed to connect with the ball after good work from substitute Ronan Curtis.

With Pompey lacking any real creativity they found a way back into the game through a piece of individual quality from Close. The midfielder broke forward, exchanged passes with Hawkins, before advancing into the box and finishing low to Dimi Evtimov’s right.

Close came close to grabbing a winner in the 80th minute only to see his effort come back off the crossbar as the regular season ended in a disappointing draw.

The ideal scenario before the visit of Accrington was to finish in third spot and play Doncaster Rovers in the play-off semi-final. If Pompey are going up to the Championship, they will have to beat Sunderland and then probably Charlton in the play-off final.  

Portsmouth (4-2-3-1): MacGillivray; Walkes, Burgess, Clarke, Brown; Naylor, Close; Evans (Pitman 74mins) Morris (Curtis 46), Solomon-Otabor; Hawkins (Bogle 60). Subs (not used): Bass (gk), Thompson, Haunstrup, Vaughan.

Accrington Stanley (4-4-2): Evtimov; Richards-Everton, Sykes, Hughes, Donacien; Clarke (Sousa 66mins), Barlaser, Conneely, McConville; Smyth, Armstrong. Subs (not used): Warner (gk), Brown, Zanzala, Simmonds, Rodgers, Ogle.

Referee: Scott Duncan

Attendance: 18,439