Neal Ardley expects his squad to face a tough test of their progress against in-form Portsmouth tonight, but he is excited by the challenge that awaits.
The Carabao Cup tie at Fratton Park pitches together two teams unbeaten this season with Kenny Jacket's side having picked up two points more. Pompey have been tipped in some quarters to be among the League One promotion contenders and Neal Ardley knows they will be difficult opponents tonight. However, Neal's new-look squad have made a bright start to 2018/19, raising hopes of progress in the club's third successive campaign in League One (the picture above shows Tom King and Ben Purrington congratulating each other after another clean sheet on Saturday). Portsmouth finished a very creditable eighth in their first season back in the third tier of English football, threatening to sneak into the play-offs late on.
Whatever happens tonight, there will be no extra-time! As part of a key rule change introduced by the EFL, games in the Carabao Cup will go straight to penalties if scores are level at full-time.
Below is an in-depth preview of tonight's game, including quotes from both camps, and stats:
"We feel that we are a good team this season, but the proof will be in the pudding over all the games that we have to play. At the moment there has been some really positive signs, but Kenny Jacket's teams are normally hard to play against as they are always unbelievably well organised with players knowing their jobs. This will be no different and we will have to perform or we will not get anything.
"It is a local game for us, just over an hour or so away for the fans, it is reachable. Portsmouth is a great traditional club, they have fantastic support and they are always noisy down there. We've had some mixed results there with wins and losses, but our fans always get behind the goal and make a lot of noise. It will be a great cup atmosphere, it might go straight to penalties if there is no score at full-time. It will be exciting and a place in that next round is up for grabs.
"Sometimes you can get carried away by the fact that we did not score any goals (against Coventry), but we had two cleared off the line and hit the post. If one of those had gone in we may have gone on to get a second and a third. It gave them something to cling onto. Everything in our build-up play was good, same as at Fleetwood, and I think we could have scored three or four there. I'm not judging it on that. You could flip it on its head and say that we've not conceded a goal and we've not looked likely to.
"There are loads of positives, the goals will come. I feel with Joe Pigott, James Hanson, Kwesi Appiah – and if we can bring another forward in – as well as the wide players, we will have goals in us this season."
Joe Gallen (Portsmouth Assistant Manager)
"It's the next game and it's at home, with fans paying money to watch us, so we won't be thinking ahead to facing Oxford at the weekend. I'm sure there will be changes on both sides, but we'll be putting out a strong team that we believe is capable of winning. The supporters will see a proper Pompey XI trying to get through to the next round of the competition.
"We didn't perform anywhere near good enough on the ball in the first game against Luton, although we were delighted with the result. There was a lot for us to work on and then we tweaked the formation a bit at Blackpool to get a bit more control and put some more passes together. It wasn't by any means perfect, but there was a definite improvement and we created a few decent chances.
"If you keep on winning then confidence does build. It's such a positive thing, so that's what we're looking to do again. Our opponents have an experienced squad and if you look through it then you'll see plenty of decent players. It will be tough and if we want to progress then – as ever – we know we're going to have to play really well."
Andy Barcham is doubtful to be involved back at his former club after picking up a toe injury. For Portsmouth, Conor Chaplin could make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a hip problem. Dion Donohue is sidelined after picking up a groin injury and Nathan Thompson is also ruled out.
Form guide (last six, starting with most recent)
AFC Wimbledon DWDDDD
Last meeting (26 December 2017)
Portsmouth 2 (Close 45, Pitman 72)
AFC Wimbledon 1 (Taylor 50)
Last Wimbledon win at Fratton Park (26 December 2014)
AFC Wimbledon 2 (Sutherland 9, Tubbs 17)
Click on the link below to watch the goals from this memorable Dons victory.
Portsmouth – Ronan Curtis (2)
AFC Wimbledon – Joe Pigott (1)
Dons supporters will be located in the South Stand Lower for this game. You can pay on the night with the following ticket prices:
Adult - £10
Senior (64-plus) - £8
Young Person (18-22 years) - £5
Junior (Under-18) - £2
Wheelchair and Carer - £5
Ambulant - £5
Ambulant (Junior) - £2
Carers (required to be on highest rate of DLA) - free of charge
Wheelchair users can contact the Portsmouth FC Ticket Office on 0345 646 1898 to purchase tickets. Please note that the spaces are located amongst the home wheelchair section in front of the Fratton End.
Domestic and overseas subscribers can listen to WDON commentary of tonight's game with Rob Cornell and Mikey T keeping you in touch with events from Fratton Park. To subscribe in time for tonight, visit our designated iFollow page. Carabao Cup games are not streamed live for subscribers at home or abroad. If you can't listen in, then follow our official Twitter page to keep in touch with the action.