Saturday afternoon was one such afternoon where many things went right for Sunderland. The professional 2-0 victory over Rochdale, whilst not the most dynamic, kept a very good run going for Lee Johnson’s men. There were also defeats elsewhere for Peterborough and Portsmouth, the latter Sunderland pay a visit to on Tuesday evening.
Pompey’s 4-1 defeat at the hands of Northampton was a real eye opener for opposition fans at both ends of the League One table. Most importantly, it sets up a chance for Sunderland to bury some of the memories of previous meetings at this level.
Back in September, I wrote about how the faux rivalry between Sunderland and Portsmouth that had developed over the last two seasons was tiresome. I mainly penned this because I wanted nothing more than to beat Portsmouth and banish the strange feeling I get in my stomach when playing the Hampshire side. Unfortunately, Portsmouth departed Wearside with a comfortably earned 3-1 win. Frustrating.
Fast forward six months, and you find a Sunderland side that has become tougher to turn over. The recent defensive shutouts, four in the last five, have thrust Sunderland well and truly into the automatic promotion race.
This, paired with Pompey’s run of one win in their last six, should give even the most pessimistic Sunderland fan hope of a big win down on the south coast this week.
Portsmouth, like Sunderland, are a club that deserves better than to be in the third tier of English football. Both sides are seen as a major scalp, and I for one am bored of having bog-standard teams rattle on about how we are a wealthy club and that they step up their game just because of who we are.
I’m sure Pompey have had the same, but the recent fortunes of both sides means that we should have the belief to seal an elusive win at Fratton Park. Three points on Tuesday would be the first at that particular ground since 1997. Timely would be an understatement.
Previous visits to Portsmouth have been feisty. The 0-0 draw in the second leg of the playoffs in 2019 proved this. Despite the atmosphere of a packed Fratton Park, Sunderland got the job done. Portsmouth have in recent years had a prolific home record, but the recent wobbles they’ve had on home soil and facing them behind closed doors could be of an advantage.
This rivalry may not have much substance, but it can’t be denied that we have had some interesting matches against them. Despite this, it doesn’t mean I want to continue playing them season after season. The only exception of course would be that we locked horns next season in the Championship.
Beating Portsmouth will not confirm promotion, the same way a defeat would end all hopes of it. However, three points on the south coast would set Sunderland up well for the final run-in of matches and give us a genuine shot of breaking into the top two.
They may be out of form, but picking up points against the teams around us will be the best way to try and make sure we get out of this league.