Tuesday 9th March 2021
(6th) Portsmouth v Sunderland (4th)
Sky Bet League One
TV/Stream: Full live match coverage available via Sky Sports and also www.safc.com to season card holders that have activated access to coverage of all games played behind closed doors.
Radio: Full live match commentary available via BBC Sunderland DAB and BBC Radio Newcastle (not online)
Don’t forget to follow the blow-by-blow account of the game on the Roker Report Twitter feed (@RokerReport) and check out the player ratings after the full-time whistle at www.RokerReport.com!
The bandwagon continues to roll on as we enter a huge week to begin setting up what could potentially be the end to a successful season. An away trip tonight is followed by a Wembley appearance in the EFL Trophy on Sunday, and two victories this week could set the foundations for things to come.
Two home wins over the last week have kept up the pressure on the top two, but one question mark remains over the manner of the victories over two League One strugglers in the form of Swindon Town and Rochdale.
There will be a point to prove tonight for Lee Johnson and his side that will confirm our credentials as contenders for at least the top two, whilst providing confirmation that our convincing win over Doncaster Rovers was no fluke.
Discounting his opening game against Wigan, Johnson has only lost 2 games in 17 as Sunderland manager, and examining our recent form more closely, only three goals have been conceded in our last six fixtures. Impressive stats that couldn’t hurt being backed up by an away win against a promotion rival.
With Portsmouth under Kenny Jackett it always seems to be down to timing. At certain times we have faced them they have looked one of the strongest sides in the division and at others they look distinctly average at best.
Back in October, Portsmouth steamrollered Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland side at the Stadium of Light and came away with a fully deserved 3-1 win, and were at one point topping the table.
In 2021 however they have fallen away from the leading pack and now find themselves clinging on to the final play-off position with the likes of Accrington Stanley and a resurgent Ipswich Town breathing heavily down their necks.
With only one win in the last six games, including Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Northampton, Kenny Jackett may look to the rivalry between the two sides that have built up over our League One years to provide all the incentive to get things back on track at Fratton Park.
League One Form Guide
Last five games...
Sunderland Team News
Although Sunderland have a number of players returning to fitness, it’s unlikely we’ll see major surgery from the side that claimed all three points at home to Rochdale on Saturday.
Lynden Gooch could potentially be back in the frame in terms of fitness, but Lee Johnson might opt to strengthen the middle of the park away from home. The other decision may come around Oliver Younger at right-back, where a trip to Portsmouth is very different to a home fixture against Rochdale.
Tonight might come too soon for the likes of Conor McLaughlin, Tom Flanagan, Bailey Wright and Ross Stewart, especially as we lose Dion Sanderson for Sunday’s Wembley final through being cup-tied.
All four are at the early stages of returning to training and full fitness, as is Grant Leadbitter who is still assessing damage to his shoulder and will be another who might have a focus on a Wembley return.
Possible XI: Burge, Younger, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean, Power, Scowen, Winchester, McGeady, Jones, Wyke
Portsmouth Team News
After the capitulation at Northampton it’s possible eleven players who didn’t take to the field at the weekend might be called upon tonight.
James Bolton is likely to have recovered fully from an ankle injury that saw him make the bench on Saturday so could well be ready for a start. Michael Jacobs may be in contention as he recovers from a hamstring injury but it will be too soon for Alex Bass and Callum Johnson due to longer-term fitness worries.
Possible XI: MacGillivray, Bolton, Raggett, Nicolaisen, Daniels, Harness, White, Naylor, Curtis, Marquis, Williams.
Last Time We Met... at Fratton Park
Saturday 1st February 2020
Sky Bet League One
Portsmouth 2 - 0 Sunderland
(Burgess 25’, Bolton 52’)
Sunderland: J. McLuaghlin, Willis, Wright, Lynch, O’Nien, Dobson, Power, Hume (Semenyo), Maguire (Watmore), Gooch, Wyke (Lafferty) Substitutes not used: Burge, C. McLaughlin, Flanagan, Scowen
Portsmouth: Bass, Bolton, Seddon, Naylor, Burgess, Raggett, Williams, McGeehan, Marquis (Harrison), Cannon (Close), Curtis Substitutes not used: MacGillivray, Brown, Whatmough, McCrorie, Harness
Played For both
Club captain almost the entire nine years he was at Sunderland, twice player of the year, youth team coach, reserve team coach, twice caretaker manager, ambassador and all round club legend.
Before all that he started his career at Portsmouth making over 100 appearances from signing as a professional in 1982, to signing for the lads in 1990.
Agnew had a stint on loan at Portsmouth making seven appearances in 1992. It would be three years later in 1995 that Mick Buxton bagged a bargain, signing Agnew from Leicester City for a reported £250,000.
A popular player during his three-year stay on Wearside, memories of his wig during the promotion celebrations at Roker in 1996 will live long in the memory.
Head to Head... at Fratton Park
In all competitions...
Sunderland wins: 11
Portsmouth wins: 26
Goals for Sunderland: 76
Goals for Portsmouth: 101
The bookies are having trouble splitting the two sides with Portsmouth being slight favourites to take all three points at 13/8. Sunderland are priced at 17/10, with the draw on offer at 11/5.
In terms of a correct score the bookmakers have a 1-1 as the shortest price at 9/2, followed closely by a 1-0 home win at 13/2. A win by the same margin for Sunderland is a 7/1 shot, with a 2-0 perhaps looking tempting at 11/1.
Charlie Wyke is the obvious choice to open the scoring for Sunderland and is available at 10/3 for the opener and 5/4 anytime scorer, with Chris Maguire next in line at 6/1 to get the ball rolling and 23/10 anytime scorer.
With a couple of near misses alongside his spectacular effort at Crewe, Jordan Jones might provide more value at 13/2 to open Sunderland’s account and 5/2 to net at anytime.
I’m never confident in front of the Sky cameras, always have been. I’ve got a feeling both sides will be happy for the draw for different reasons, and as so often is the case on these occasions, it can make for a stalemate.