With Jack Ross taking heed of the positivity generated by the players, formation, and attitude, he brought in McLaughlin 1 and McGeady in place of Burge and Grigg. The team responded by eventually getting their act together and winning a game of two halves in which we scored both goals in the first half but played better in the second.
We'd scarcely finished saying goodbye to Big Al yesterday at Chester le Street, swapping tales of awayday high jinks when it was time to Don the matchday gear - returning to my traditional red n white socks + brogues combo after Tuesday's flirtation with a Methven-esque bluevsude effort - and head for Monkwearmouth. With memories of our positive performance at Accrington fresh in our minds, still watching McGeady drift through their defence in our mind's eye, the usual pre-match routine was curtailed thanks to the early kick-off. Well, at least it meant those nasty Pompey fans had to be out of bed just before we fell asleep.
McNulty's bright showing, and Wyke's muscular appearance from the bench, plus the solidity of Ozturk and Willis, showed that we have what it takes to be strong down the middle. Would Ross the Boss opt for that front pairing from the off, or use Big Chas as an impact (big impact, ask Accy's number 5) sub? Mebbe Grigg could fare better as an impact sub? Who knows, but Jack decides. After spending time in the Fanzone watching Super Kevin Phillips sign a host of photos, it was "game time".
Thankfully, he did.
O'Nien Ozturk Willis McLaughlin
Maguire Power Leadbitter Gooch
With the sleepy Pompeians up in the north stand - well searched I hope - and the majority of the crowd arriving late, Pompey turned out in a defeatist grey strip. If the crowd reaction to the team being announced was owt to go by, this will be a noisy one, and we kicked off towards the Roker End in front of what looked like fewer folks than anticipated.
Before we'd had the time to establish any sort of pattern, the first chance fell to Pompey, who header it way over. McGeady started on the left with Maguire more central and Gooch on the right, but a loose clearance from Big Jon almost set the visitors away, with Leadbitter saving the day baby ratting the ball off their man on our left.
As last season, the visitors were a threat down their right, but at least they weren't lying down at every opportunity -in the first ten minutes, at least - and forced Leadbitter into some goody defensive work. On 15, a good ball from Maguire forced a corner on our left, but it was cleared and they were away down their right again, stopped by O'Nien dashing across. After a few attempts by us at building an attack, it was still Pompey who had most of the ball, and on 22 we let them gallop through the middle, passing up several chances to clear before it ran loose in the box and was swept home.
Damn blast damn blast.
At least it woke us up, and four minutes later Leadbitter' corner from the right was headed inside the far post from close to the penalty spot by Willis. Boom! Game on.
After ten minutes of Pompey domination and intermittent Sunderland attacks - and there were a few- we robbed them for once, and fed McGeady, who skipped into the left of the box and placed it carefully across, out of the keeper's reach for Maguire to place into the net. A beautiful goal. Gerrinnnn!
...and the cheating started. After the ref ignored BV a chance to play on when they committed a foul, they cleared the free and their 14 went holding his head after zero contact. With their 11 continually winding O'Nien up and the ref seeming to favour the visitors in every challenge, it got a bit fractious.
Two added minutes were announced as Gooch did well to win a throw on the right. A short pass by Ozturk when a big hoof was the sensible options resulted in O'Nien producing a loose pass that set Pompey away, but we cleared.
2-1 up at the break after 47 minutes for long periods of which we'd been out-passed I'm the middle and under pressure on our left. Thankfully, their left was far less of a nuisance other than in workiticketness and for once we showed ruthlessness when we did create a chance - or two.
We had the pleasure of Barry Siddall doing the half-time draw in the company of local martial arts wrestling feller whose name I could begin to spell. The announcement that Paul Dobson of Bishop Auckland had won the Grand in your Hand resulted in the begging emails arriving - but it's not me. Honest. Shame, though.
Presumably both mangers spent the break screaming at their players to cut out the basic errors.
No changes for the second half, and there was an early chase for McNulty which he only just lost, pulling a hamstring in the process. On came Charlie on 48, and he was nearly on the end of a dreadful header to their keeper four minutes later, his leg being just too short to toe-end it over him.
Big Chas was amongst it again soon after, but for the wrong reason, being hounded off the ball and Pompey setting up a great chance, which they screwed horribly wide.
A great ball from Luke set Gooch away down the right, he found Maguire who exchanged passes with Power, and Max's shot flew inches wide of the far post. This preceded our best spell of the game, with two penalty shouts and some good pressure.
On 79 Big Jon produced a tremendous save low to left from Leadbitter's defensive header, then Grigg came on for McGeady. Maguire was booked on 85 as he defended, so a few minutes later he was replaced by Hume on the left after the free-kick had sailed beyond the far post. Ozturk and Willis were generally rick-solid despite the attentions of Marquis, meaning that in the second half Big Jon only had one save to make, and that was from his captain. He did take lots of crosses, mind.
The ref then decided that anything Wyke did was a foul - even standing still while his opponent climbed all over him, and thus enraged the home fans. Hume, who we sort of hoped would bomb forward and take the ball into the corner, doubled up with McLaughlin 2 to snuff out their right hand side. Four added minutes were announced, we defended them well, and the whistle went to a huge roar and singalonga Sweet Caroline. Hard-fought, overall deserved, and massive in terms of morale for the fans, players, and manager. Ultimately a very enjoyable result.
Man of the Match? Difficult, as no one really stood out. Maguire, despite some iffy first touches, scored and was a proper pest once we got the first 25 minutes out of the way. The central defence also looked good after those 25...to be fair, the whole team improved. It wasn't a technically good game - if players didn't make mistakes, they'd be playing at a higher level.
I'll give it to Leadbitter, despite the header, for good defensive work in the first half, good corners, and being a steadying influence in the second, allowing Power to do the passy stuff.
More of the same (the good bits) at Rochdale, please.