Here we are then, exactly where we didn’t want to be. After months of frantically calculating the permutations and praying the top two would slip up, it was Sunderland that actually blew their own automatic promotion hopes.
A run of one win in six has condemned the Black Cats to the play-offs and they face a foe we are sick of seeing. Can this be the Sunderland side that not only breaks the play-off hoodoo but also beat a Portsmouth team they haven’t beat in their last nine meetings?
Let’s hope so.
Where Can I Watch It?
Forget the disappointment of the end of the season and back the Lads on this final push. A packed Stadium of Light can help push us over the line, so get down to the ground on Saturday and roar the Lads home.
Tickets are still available from the ticket office priced at £20 for adults, £17.50 for over-65s, £12.50 for under-22s and £7.50 for under-16s.
There will not be a repeat of the hordes of Portsmouth fans invading Wearside witnessed at the league meeting between the two sides in late-April as the away allocation has been cut from 3,200 to 2,000. This is believed a direct response to a Portsmouth supporters throwing a pyrotechnic into the Sunderland section during that 1-1 draw.
The game is set to be broadcast live on Sky as part of the channel’s play-off weekend coverage.
Jack Ross Says...
I look at the season and we may have recorded positive results against a team, but I’ll know if we’ve not played well or struggled to play against them.
That probably causes me more concerns, even if people say it’s the end result that always matters.
I think the fact that the games against Portsmouth this season, we’ve played well for parts each one, they have as well but the games have been competitive and close. We’ve been right in them, and that makes me OK.
There are teams this season that we’ve found it difficult to play against for different reasons and that would be more concerning.
But certainly I think the way they play can cause problems at times, but the way we play can cause them difficulty.
Jack Ross will have a full strength squad to choose from ahead of Saturday’s huge game. The Black Cats will once again be able to call upon Aiden McGeady after the Irishman sat out the games against Fleetwood Town and Southend United with a foot injury.
McGeady’s return is a huge boost for a team that have a lacked a creative spark in his absence. Skipper George Honeyman and Lee Cattermole will also be available while Ross revealed there is a chance Duncan Watmore could play a part over the two legs.
The winger has suffered terrible luck with injuries over the past three years and his season was thought to be over when a reckless challenge from Wycombe Wanderers’ Marcus Bean inflicted ankle ligament damage on him. However, Ross confirmed that he has been training with the first team squad and may feature against Portsmouth.
View From The Opposition
It’s not just Sunderland that enter the play-offs wondering “what could’ve been”. Portsmouth will look back on their final three games of the season and rue missing the opportunity to secure automatic promotion.
The Blues’ draw at the Stadium of Light earlier in the campaign put them in the driving seat to enter the top two. A shock defeat at home to Peterborough United and a draw against Accrington Stanley saw automatic promotion slip through their fingers.
Preparation ahead of the trip to Wearside has been far from ideal for Pompey with winger Ronan Curtis being subject to hate calls. The Republic of Ireland international revealed he has had to contact the police after receiving a barrage of abusive messages over the past two weeks.
Curtis told The News that has had to change his number after the callers “were just saying things like I’m not good enough and trying to be funny”. The winger, who scored in a 3-1 win over Sunderland at Fratton Park in December, is aiming to put the incident behind him and do his talking on the pitch.
Speaking ahead of the game, manager Kenny Jackett said:
You need to make sure your own team are at their best – mentally, physically and tactically. You have to be prepared.
Whoever does that better will win and it’s not really important who knows the most about the opposition.
We’ve got a lot of respect for Sunderland, who are a big club. It’s an exciting tie and everyone’s enthusiastic about what’s ahead.
We really appreciate all the fans who are making the long trip up there and want to put on a performance for them.