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Finlay’s Report: It’s Nightmare before Christmas for Sunderland - defensive errors cost us badly

Sunderland’s defensive mistakes handed the advantage at the top of League One to Portsmouth yesterday - and, as our young reporter Finlay Anderson writes, the red card shown to Glenn Loovens could be viewed as a dubious decision from the ref.

Despite a brief glimmer of hope, Sunderland were destroyed by Portsmouth
Sunderland AFC

It was a nightmare before Christmas as Sunderland fell eight points behind leaders Portsmouth, with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the table toppers leaving us ruing defensive errors.

After an even first half, Sunderland were forced to come from behind as after a Glenn Loovens tackle on Oli Hawkins inside the area lead to a penalty and a red card for the Dutch defender. Gareth Evans scored the spot kick, much to the delight of the home supporters. Roman Curtis then doubled Pompey’s lead before Luke O’Nien brought the visitors back into the game after halving the deficit. Ben Thompson capped off a fantastic second half for the hosts, condemning the visitors to only their second league defeat of the season.

Jack Ross made three changes to the side that won 2-1 against Bristol Rovers last Saturday with Luke O’Nien filling in at right-back, while Duncan Watmore started his first league game of the season up top. Also, Reece James came into the starting 11 in place of Bryan Oviedo. Adam Matthews didn’t feature on the bench as the gaffer later announced that he had a calf problem, so Maja, who had an illness, slotted in on the bench.

Both sides evened each other out in the first half but one of the best chances came through Duncan Watmore, when he got to the byline and the pullback was saved by the Pompey goalkeeper, Craig MacGillivray.

In the second half, the first action came in the 47th minute when Oli Hawkins was through on goal but was brought down in the area by defender Glenn Loovens. The referee, Peter Bankes, pointed to the spot and he showed Loovens a red card as the man in the middle classed the chance as a clear goal scoring opportunity. There could be a case though that Jack Baldwin, the covering defender, may have been able to prevent Portsmouth from taking the lead. Despite this, Gareth Evans scored an unstoppable penalty to make the Fratton Park crowd erupt.

Only five minutes later, Portsmouth went two ahead when space opened up for Ronan Curtis on the left wing, and he got to the byline and sneaked the ball under Jon McLaughlin and into the back of the Sunderland net.

The visitors got back into the match when Max Power’s cross managed to fly to the back post and Luke O’Nien side-footed the ball into the bottom left corner to delight the travelling away fans, briefly giving them a hope that they could clinch something from the match.

That hope was destroyed by Ben Thompson after Oli Hawkins’ header was parried away by McLaughlin, but the rebound from Thompson defected off McLaughlin and bounced into the roof of the net.

Next up, we face Bradford City in the second game of our busy festive period in front of a huge League One record attendance at the Stadium of Light. Hopefully, the Lads can send all of the fans home happy with three points and close the gap on Portsmouth and Luton.

Merry Christmas!