The 26 days to decide Pompey's promotion success

There are 26 days for League Two's remaining automatic promotion spots to be decided.

Tuesday, 12th April 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:41 pm
Pompey remain well in the hunt for automatic promotion following Saturday's win at Dagenham & Redbridge Picture: Joe Pepler

And the battle is guaranteed to go right to May 7 as, realistically, five clubs scrap it out for two spots.

Northampton’s point against Bristol Rovers on Saturday was enough to book their passage out of the Football League’s bottom division.

Oxford United, Accrington, Rovers and Plymouth have five matches to follow the Cobblers’ lead.

Then there’s Pompey, armed with a game in hand and timely momentum of a three-match winning run – their best league return all season.

As it stands, Oxford (on 76 points) and Accrington (74) occupy second and third spot respectively, thereby setting themselves as favourites for promotion.

Even victory for Paul Cook’s side in their spare fixture at seventh-placed AFC Wimbledon would not be enough to break into the top three.

Instead, they would have to maintain their winning streak and hope others slip up before the campaign ends.

Incidentally, the Blues have to play three of the top seven – Plymouth, Northampton and Wimbledon.

Plymouth aside, who meet Pompey on Saturday, none of the other challengers are scheduled to face each other.

At present, Oxford possess a four-point cushion inside the automatic promotion spots and a goal difference far superior to their rivals.

Ominously, Michael Appleton’s men also have only one defeat in their past 10 league games.

Their response to losing the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Barnsley was to hammer Crawley 5-1 on Saturday, having initially been behind.

Of their final five matches, three are at home in the form of Luton, Hartlepool and Wycombe.

They also have to travel to Newport County and have a tough trip to Carlisle.

Accrington are two points clear of fourth place and have been in magnificent form since a home humbling to Pompey.

The response has been a seven-game unbeaten run, winning five of them and conceding on just three occasions.

The fixture list has them paired with Morecambe, York and Stevenage at home.

They must also to travel to Hartlepool and Wycombe, the latter a penultimate fixture which on paper appears the most difficult of their run-in.

Rovers (72) impressively fought back from two goals down with 14 minutes to go to draw at Northampton at the weekend.

Since losing 3-1 at Pompey in February, they have won eight of their 11 matches, losing only twice and scoring 25 times.

Their final two matches are against bottom sides York and Dagenham & Redbridge, while they must also take on Yeovil, Stevenage and Exeter.

Finally, Plymouth’s run of five wins from their last 16 matches has sent them plummeting out of the automatic promotion spots, with the Pilgrims fifth on 71 points.

Of their remaining fixtures, three are away as they face Pompey, Leyton Orient, Dagenham & Redbridge, Cambridge United and Hartlepool.

All the Blues can do is keep on winning – and fingers crossed the others slip up.