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Finlay’s Report: Time for Sunderland to build momentum and focus on winning the play-offs!

RR’s junior journo Finlay Anderson is back with his run-down of the Portsmouth draw, noting that Sunderland simply must win their final games in order to gain a better play-off position. Can we do it?

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland look like they are destined for the League One play-offs after a one-one draw against Portsmouth now means they are six points behind the top two of Luton and Barnsley.

The Black Cats took an early lead - with only nine minutes on the clock - when Tom Flanagan headed Sunderland into a one-goal advantage.

Then, fifteen minutes later, Jamal Lowe equalised for the hosts after Lee Brown’s header struck the crossbar.

Now, Sunderland’s destiny is still not in their hands and a draw for both Barnsley and Luton will mean that Sunderland have to settle for a play-off spot. If the Black Cats have to go into the play-offs, then they should try and get into third as, at the moment, that would mean an easier semi-final against Doncaster - unless they slip out of the play-offs.

Jack Ross made one change to the side that conceded a late goal against Peterborough at the ABAX Stadium. Jimmy Dunne was dropped from the starting xi to the bench with Tom Flanagan taking his place in the heart of defence. After revealing he broke his foot in the away game against Accrington after the Checkatrade Trophy final, Aiden McGeady kept his place in the side.

SAFC.com

First Half: Sunderland Started Positively

Sunderland began the match in a positive manner, with Lewis Morgan troubling the Portsmouth backline early on. His acrobatic effort after a cross from McGeady agonizingly cannoned off the left post - so close to being an absolutely brilliant goal.

Then, with only nine minutes gone, Sunderland opened the scoring. A cross from a free-kick on the left by Max Power allowed Flanagan to jump the highest and nod the ball into the bottom left corner.

Pompey showed signs of why they were on a seven-game winning run, though. Ben Close’s effort was palmed away by the Sunderland goalkeeper, and then they equalised. Brett Pitman kept the ball in on the right and crossed it to Brown, who headed it against the bar. Luckily, the ball diverted into the path of Jamal Lowe - Portsmouth’s Wembley hero - who poked his strike into the bottom left corner.

Stupidity from a Portsmouth fan then halted the game for four minutes after they threw a flare into the Sunderland end below them.

After the restart, Sunderland had a number of chances which should have put them in front. Luke O’Nien’s low cross put the ball on a plate for Wyke. He managed to stretch to change the path of the ball towards the goal, but a great save by MacGillivray denied him.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Second Half: Sunderland Rue Missed Chances

Sunderland made their first change with an hour on the clock with Chris Maguire coming on for his first home appearance since returning from his injury, replacing George Honeyman.

Maguire was attempting to make an immediate impact when his shot from distance was saved by the Portsmouth goalkeeper.

Then, Sunderland were looking to light up this match with another goal when they brought on striker, Will Grigg, in the place of Lewis Morgan - meaning that the Black Cats were going to play two up front for the last 21 minutes.

Craig MacGillivray was forced to make another save, this time from Max Power. He received the ball inside the penalty area and managed to swivel and fire it towards goal. The Scottish goalkeeper was able to make a fine save to deny Power, however.

With not long left to play, Sunderland were unlucky not to have score a winner, when Grigg picked the ball up from a few yards out and turn and arrowed his shot off the left post.

No team was able to carve out one final goal scoring opportunity and the match ended Sunderland AFC 1-1 Portsmouth FC.

Next up, Sunderland face a game against Fleetwood Town at Highbury on Tuesday night, which Sunderland just have to win if they want to keep their hopes of automatic promotion alive.

There was a worrying sign towards the end of the match when Luke O’Nien hobbled off, but I think he will be able to start on Tuesday. Jack Ross needs nothing more than a win, as if they don’t they will have to settle for the play-offs. It is that simple!