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Pompey know who's in League One in 23-24 - but will it be any easier?
Monday, 29th May 2023 20:07 by Steve Bone

The final piece of the 2023-24 League One jigsaw fell into place on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon when Sheffield Wednesday broke Barnsley's hearts with a 123rd minute winner in the play-off final at a sun-baked Wembley.

Josh Windass' diving header earned promotion for Darren Moore's Owls - the victors having been 4-0 down at Peterborough after the first leg of their semi-final, remember - back to the Championship, while the Tykes must ponder the prospect of another season in tier three with Pompey and Co.

So we have lost Plymouth, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday from the top end of L1 - to be replaced by Wigan, Reading and Blackpool. At the other end we have lost MK Dons, Morecambe, Accrington and Forest Green, who in turn are replaced by Leyton Orient, Stevenage, Northampton and Carlisle.

Does it all make L1 and Pompey's seventh successive go at it easier or harder than this year? Inevitably we won't know until the action kicks off in just over two months' time, or even some time after that, but on the face of it, most would agree the three coming down from the Championship are collectively not as strong as the three going up.

Few would have predicted a year ago Plymouth would win promotion but most would have had the Owls and Ipswich among the favourites for promotion, while Derby, Bolton and Pompey would have been in many people's play-off thinking, if not in their top two thoughts.

Other than the relegated and promoted sides, who else do Pompey have to face next season? Going down from the top in terms of the league positions just achieved it's: Barnsley, Bolton, Peterborough, Derby, Wycombe, Charlton, Lincoln, Shrewsbury, Fleetwood, Exeter, Burton, Cheltenham, Bristol Rovers, Port Vale, Oxford and Cambridge.

Beyond Bolton and Barnsley, it's hard to see too many of those competing seriously for promotion spots, though Charlton, Oxford and Wycombe can never be discounted at this level and Shrewsbury and Exeter might be among others to fancy their chances.

The relegated Championship trio are harder to read. Wigan have clearly had financial problems and will of course start on -8 points, but that does not necessarily rule them out of continuing their recent yo-yo tendencies. Reading and Blackpool could be teams who feel aggreived to be dropping out of the Championship and think they have a divine right to dominate next season, but they might find it harder than they imagine. Plenty have after Championship relegation in recent years.

All in all it does feel like Pompey have a very good chance of finally getting out of this division if they have a proper go at it from the start - and that means a busy and positive summer in the transfer market, and maybe spending a little more than they might like to land targets that Rich Hughes and John Mousinho think important.

How they fare in their summer business - and how those chief rivals go about their own recruitment - will dictate, by the time Pompey kick off their seventh straight League One season, how optimistic fans will be that this time next year it will be the strength of the 24-25 Championship line-up, rather than the League One register, that will be concerning us.

Photo: Action Images

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