Squad strength vital as ‘two team’ Pompey target Wembley

BRYN MORRIS has highlighted Pompey’s squad depth and fitness as crucial factors in the play-off second leg on Monday night.

The midfielder was a shock inclusion in the Portsmouth starting line-up in Friday night’s 1-1 draw against Oxford United in place of captain Tom Naylor, after spending more than a year on the sidelines.

The 24-year-old performed well in a tight game, and is confident Kenny Jackett’s side can complete the job on Monday night at the Kassam Stadium and claim a place at Wembley in a week's time.

“It’s a squad game and we’ve got a lot of depth, especially with the extra subs,” said Morris, whose last game before Friday was the 1-1 draw at Accrington in May 2019. “I can see that coming into play in the second leg.

“The lads who came on did really well and that just shows our depth. Like the gaffer says, we’ve got two teams. We’ve got solid players in every position who complement each other, and the competition is really good and it’s healthy.

“I think that our fitness will come through because we ran all over them towards the end, but just didn’t have that killer instinct.”

Pompey started the game well and, as Morris said, finished strongly, and there has been little to separate the two sides this season with all three encounters ending in draws – the league match at Fratton Park, the Trophy game at the Kassam, and Friday’s first leg play-off.

Monday’s game looks likely to be another tight encounter with Pompey suffering no ill-effects from Friday’s first competitive game for four months. While Pompey ended the season unbeaten at Fratton Park, Oxford have lost three games at home in the league, beaten by Burton, Rotherham and Sunderland.

But Jackett feels there’ll be no home advantage in an empty stadium, as his players found on Friday.

“The crowd advantage would have obviously kicked in for us in the first leg and now it’s the same situation for them,” said Jackett. “Looking at results elsewhere in recent weeks, there hasn’t been much to suggest there’s home advantage.”

Portsmouth have no fresh injury concerns and all eyes will be on Jackett’s selections. He must decide whether to bring Naylor back into midfield, and loan signing Steve Seddon will be hopeful of coming in on the left side of defence

Oxford have doubts over Matty Taylor, Friday’s goalscorer Marcus Browne, Cameron Brannagan and Ben Woodburn.