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Finlay’s Report: SAFC 1-3 Pompey - We’ve had better days...

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“What lessons do you think that Sunderland learnt from their 3-1 defeat against Portsmouth?” asks RR’s junior reporter Finlay Anderson in his run-down of yesterday’s loss.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Sunderland’s unbeaten start to the League One season is now over as Portsmouth inflicted a 3-1 defeat on the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light in Sky Bet League One.

Goals from Marcus Harness and John Marquis were sandwiched around Charlie Wyke’s 10th minute strike, which had made it one-all at the time.

A penalty from John Marquis, which involved Luke O’Nien being shown a red card, sealed the three points for Kenny Jackett’s side.


The Team...

Phil Parkinson made one change to the side that backed up a 2-0 win against Swindon Town with a 1-0 victory against Crewe Alexandra on Tuesday night.

Jordan Willis missed out in midweek, but returned to the heart of defence, with Conor McLaughlin dropping to the bench. Tom Flanagan still wasn’t 100% fit, with Luke O’Nien filling in, in the centre-back role and Lynden Gooch continuing at right wing-back.

Charlie Wyke began his third game in a row as he led the line yet again for Sunderland, ahead of Danny Graham and Will Grigg.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

First Half Action

Portsmouth took an early lead at the Stadium of Light as they caught Sunderland on the counter-attack, by scoring the first goal of all of the 3pm kick-offs in League One. The ball was touched across to Michael Jacobs, who quickly swept it across to Marcus Harness in acres of space inside the penalty area. After netting for Pompey last season at the Stadium of Light, Harness did so again by slotting the ball into the bottom left corner.

Only three minutes later, the Black Cats levelled the game - reacting in the best possible way, through another goal from striker, Charlie Wyke. Hume managed to get to the by-line and he fed it back to Wyke, who was in the right place at the right time to touch it into the bottom left corner and underneath the goalkeeper.

Portsmouth attempted to restore their one-goal advantage when Jacobs’ free-kick from the right wing was whipped into the area, and it was met by the head of Sean Raggett, but his header was parried away from the goal by Lee Burge.

Jacobs was proving instrumental in most of the Portsmouth’s attacks as the visitors began to step the pressure up a notch as Jacobs’ free-kick from around 25 yards out forced Lee Burge into tipping the ball over the bar.

Sunderland’s impressive defensive form was being broken piece by piece as they fell behind for a second time; this time a mistake from Grant Leadbitter gave Portsmouth the incentive to re-take the lead. A miss-placed pass by Leadbitter was intercepted by Harness, who slid the ball through to John Marquis and the former-Doncaster striker side-footed it into the bottom left corner.

Just before the interval, Portsmouth looked for a third goal, but Marcus Harness dribbling the ball forwards before unleashing a shot from long-range, which flew miles wide of Lee Burge’s goal.

Half Time - Sunderland AFC 1-2 Portsmouth FC

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Second Half Action

Both sides began the second half with the impetus of scoring the fourth goal in the match, with Sunderland coming the closest in the early stages of the second half. Scowen’s cross into the penalty area pin-pointed Charlie Wyke, who looked to double his tally for the game, but his header was aimed just wide of the right post.

With 69 minutes on the clock, Phil Parkinson decided to make his first change when he looked for extra attacking force with Will Grigg coming on for Josh Scowen.

Portsmouth thought that they had potentially sealed the three points with a two-goal advantage when Callum Johnson’s cross was drilled into the area, but Marquis’ header was directed into the back of the net, but the Portsmouth striker was situated in an offside position.

Just a couple of minutes later, Parkinson made his second substitution as a third striker was installed into the game with Danny Graham coming on for Grant Leadbitter.

The visitors were given a superb opportunity to make sure the three points were heading back down south when the referee gave Pompey a penalty and Luke O’Nien a red card.

Ryan Williams managed to wriggle his way into the penalty area, but O’Nien pulled him to the ground. The referee - Robert Lewis - gave Portsmouth a penalty and the Sunderland defender a second yellow card, which was followed by a red.

Kenny Jackett’s side did make it three-one when Marquis fired the ball into the bottom left corner, sending Lee Burge the wrong way, with the hosts knowing where the three points were going.

Full Time - Sunderland AFC 1-3 Portsmouth FC

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Finlay’s Verdict...

Yet again, another League One match was spent behind closed doors.

Sunderland v Portsmouth was played with a bare amount of spectators; no Wearsiders or Pompey fans were able to watch the visitors’ 3-1 victory.

Home fans would have loved to witness games at the Stadium of Light against Bristol Rovers, Peterborough United and Crewe Alexandra, but fans would have preferred to be in the comfort of their own home for Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Portsmouth.

Before kick-off, the rain was lashing down - something which was represented by the sogginess of the pitch and the air was icy, but if things were normal, the loyal Sunderland fans would have trekked down to the Stadium of Light to witness a renewal of the rivalries between the Black Cats and Portsmouth. Instead, the live streams were uploaded onto computer screens and TVs, as fans endured a frustrating 90 minutes.

It was Sunderland’s worst 90 minutes of the season so far, as their unbeaten run ended with a 3-1 defeat to Portsmouth. So, what lessons do you think that Sunderland learnt from this first loss in League One?

One clear factor that played a part in the 3-1 defeat was the lack of pace that the Black Cats had at the back. Over the past couple of weeks, we have built up a resilient backline - keeping five clean sheets in a row in League One. But, on Saturday, that was simply pulled apart through a number of defensive errors and the pace that Portsmouth’s attackers had in abundance.

On Tuesday, something which was stressed was the requirement that when chances come we need to take them, but almost in a clear contrast to the midweek win against Crewe, opportunities came at a premium. With only one shot on target through the full 90 minutes, it took until the 70th minute, before bringing Will Grigg on, who didn’t really get a sniff of the proceedings.

Everyone hopes that it is just a blip in the road for the Black Cats, as focus now turns to Tuesday’s match against Rochdale as we look to bounce back.

Over the past two games, Rochdale have strung back-to-back victories, but if history is anything to go by, three points should be in the bag, being unbeaten against the team from Greater Manchester.

However, history can sometimes be unreliable, and in League One, teams are capable of beating anyone, so the Black Cats will have to dig in and produce the types of performances they were issuing in the last couple of games, before the Portsmouth defeat, so they can get back to winning ways.

Promotion contenders always have to bounce back from a defeat with a positive and worthy win, and Rochdale is a side that - theoretically - Sunderland should be looking to take three points from, with a victory getting Phil Parkinson’s side back on track in the promotion battle.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images