Sunderland’s nine-game unbeaten run has came to an end after a 2-0 defeat over Portsmouth at Fratton Park, in a game overshadowed by a serious-looking injury to Joel Lynch. Lynch’s injury came after a clash between himself and Jon McLaughlin, but the stoppage contributed to nine minutes of added time at the end of the match.
Goals from Christian Burgess and James Bolton meant sure that Portsmouth cemented their grip of a play-off place, whilst Sunderland dropped to seventh.
Phil Parkinson stuck with the same eleven that started Sunderland’s 1-0 victory over Tranmere Rovers on Wednesday night. Bailey Wright was given his second start in a Sunderland shirt, whilst the signing of Antoine Semenyo was completed by 12 noon on Deadline Day, meaning that he was able to take part at Fratton Park, but only had a place on the bench. Duncan Watmore returned to the squad after missing out at Prenton Park.
First Half Action
Both teams enjoyed a fair share of possession in the opening stages, but Sunderland had the first effort of the match. A long ball picked out Wyke, who nodded it down and then fired a shot, which was blocked by the chest of Alex Bass in the Portsmouth goal.
About five minutes later, Portsmouth came very close to taking the lead when a cross from a free-kick on the left from Ronan Curtis was glanced millimetres wide of the right post by midfielder, Ryan Williams.
Chris Maguire scored the only goal of the two-legged play-off semi-final last season, and was afforded miles of space inside the penalty area to give the visitors the lead. Hume cut the ball back to the winger, and he couldn’t hit the target, with a touch that looped up in the air.
It was an eventful opening to the match and another chance came the way of the Black Cats, when somehow the ball didn’t cross the line. O’Nien’s left-footed shot curled off the left post and then deflected back goal wards from the back of a diving Alex Bass, but the ball unfortunately crept wide of the right post.
On his 200th appearance for Portsmouth, Christian Burgess marked it with a goal to give Pompey the lead. Ronan Curtis swung in a cross from a free-kick from the left and Burgess was left free of any red-and-white shirts and nodded the ball into the top right corner.
Moments later, the hosts should have doubled their lead when the ball fell for John Marquis, inside the penalty area, and his shot was hammered narrowly wide of the left post.
Just before half time, Portsmouth were almost two in front when Cannon’s cross was headed back towards his own goal by Bailey Wright, but luckily for the Aussie, Jon McLaughlin was able to spectacularly keep the ball out of the Sunderland net.
After an extended period of added time, the first half ended with that Christian Burgess goal being decisive, with the score; Portsmouth 1-0 Sunderland AFC.
Second Half Action
Before the start of the second half, both sides made one change. Just before the interval, Charlie Wyke was having a problem with his shoulder after being clattered by the Pompey goalkeeper, so was unable to continue, with Kyle Lafferty replacing him up top. For Portsmouth, Ellis Harrison came on in attack in the place of John Marquis.
Just over five minutes into the second half, the game was arguably over when Portsmouth doubled their advantage. Ronan Curtis’ corner from the left wasn’t cleared by the visitors, and James Bolton ran into the space and fired into the bottom left corner.
Not long after, it should have been three-nil when the ball was nodded back across goal by Andy Cannon, where Harrison was waiting, but from a few yards out, his header forced a brilliant save from Jon McLaughlin.
With 68 minutes on the clock, Phil Parkinson made a double substitution in order to try and claim something from Fratton Park. He gave Antoine Semenyo his Sunderland debut, with Duncan Watmore also coming on. Both Chris Maguire and Denver Hume were taken off, with Lynden Gooch dropping to the left-wing back role.
Sunderland were forced to see out the final three minutes plus injury time with ten men, due to a serious-looking injury for Joel Lynch. He collided with Jon McLaughlin just inside the penalty area, and a lengthy stoppage allowed the Sunderland defender to be treated, and then stretchered off.
After nine minutes of additional time at the end of the match, the game ended Portsmouth FC 2-0 Sunderland AFC.
How much of an impact will the injury to Joel Lynch have on Phil Parkinson’s side?
With 81 minutes on the clock, Joel Lynch and Jon McLaughlin tried to clear the same ball - and despite their aims being positive, they had very negative consequences. The game was halted for around six minutes, with Lynch being treated by a number of paramedics as well as the club doctor, Peter Brand.
The repercussions of this injury could be massive. How long Lynch is out for unknown at the moment, but Parkinson has lots of defensive options. Bailey Wright may be needed more than what was expected before he arrived now. February is a busy month, with five more games to be played in this month, and there is guaranteed to be changes in every position. Alim Ozturk was probably unfortunate to have been dropped for Wright to come in, so if he is given a chance, then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. The same goes for Tom Flanagan, who played well in the two home games against Lincoln and Wycombe.
In the match itself, the best team won, in my opinion. I think that this defeat is just a blip against a side who is flying high at home, and haven’t lost a home match at Fratton Park this season. In the opening 20 minutes though, we were the dominant side, and created chances to take the lead. An example of this is when he found room for Maguire in the centre of the penalty area, but he scuffed his shot. O’Nien was very unfortunate that his superb effort smacked the left post and then rebounded off the back of the keeper and rolled wide. Then, it was a lack of defending set pieces that cost us. Somehow, we afforded Burgess space in the penalty area to nod home.
After half time, it was like the team, who played well in the first half, had been left in the dressing room. Alex Bass wasn’t really troubled in the Portsmouth goal, and I can’t even remember when we registered a shot on goal or even just a shot. Then, we gifted Pompey another goal by being unable to clear a corner and then Bolton fired in. Parkinson tried to change the pattern of the game by bringing on Watmore and Semenyo, but they were unable to make a significant impact. Despite them not changing the game, I still have lots of hope that Semenyo can be an asset to the side in the next few weeks and months.
Next week, we need to bounce back, when we face Ipswich Town at the Stadium of Light. Paul Lambert’s side were beaten 4-1 by Peterborough United on Saturday at home, and will also want to bounce back. Four of our next five matches are at home, so despite losing on Saturday, there isn’t a better boost than to trying to stabilise ourselves with home matches, due to the support that the Sunderland fans supply at the Stadium of Light.
Charlie Wyke will have to be assessed after going off at half time with a shoulder injury, but if he doesn’t play, Kyle Lafferty should be match-fit by the time kick-off comes on Saturday. A win puts the Black Cats level on points with Ipswich, but a defeat will make it 100% hard for the Black Cats to claim automatic promotion as they could slip down to 10th, so let’s hope that we can bounce back in style with three points.