Sunderland's season is off and running after they came from behind to beat promotion rivals Portsmouth 2 - 1 at the SOL on Saturday lunchtime. Goals from Jordan Willis and Chris Maguire cancelled out Marcus Harness' first half opener as Jack Ross' side produced a solid display after a slow start in front of the Sky cameras.
After the victory over Accrington in the League Cup on Tuesday evening Jack Ross had a number of decisions to make as we welcomed our good friends from the South coast Portsmouth back to Wearside. Having changed personnel and tactics for the cup game the old adage of “not changing a winning team" was mooted despite the likes of McGeady, Grigg and McLaughlin (GK) not starting at the Wham Stadium.
The pressure was slightly starting to mount on Ross prior to the game partly due to the performance at Portman Road last Saturday against Ipswich which some branded the worst under the Scot – however the lads did not lose and salvaged a trademark one one draw. However, his new preferred formation which he had to change twice last weekend has being raising eyebrows with it not seemingly bringing out the best in Will Grigg or Aiden McGeady.
Jack Ross confirmed in his pre match press conference that there was some good news from the treatment room with Hume and McGeouch available though Watmore and Robson were still unavailable. On the transfer front things were still quiet though the boss confirmed we were still in the market.
Pompey headed north with a few of their fans relieved that Lee Cattermole is over in Holland whilst their gaffer Kenny Jackett was bullish going into the game and had no real injury concerns. Jack Ross made two changes to the side that beat Accrington on Tuesday with as expected Jon McLaughlin replacing Lee Burge in goal whilst Aiden McGeady replaced Will Grigg.
We got the game underway in blustery conditions kicking towards the Roker end but it was the visitors who had the first effort with Curtis heading over. Pompey in their miserable grey away kit also had the next effort just after ten minutes with Close trying his luck from long range but his shot was well over the bar.
Soon after McLaughlin was called into action to punch the ball clear after Ozturk got caught on the wrong side of his man as Kenny Jackett’s side continued to have the better of the opening stages. The lads forced a corner after fifteen minutes when McGeady’s cross was cut out after he was found on the left wing by Maguire but Portsmouth easily cleared the set piece.
Portsmouth took the lead just after twenty minutes after some horrific defending from Sunderland although to be fair to the visitors the goal had been coming. A catalogue of half hearted tackles and chances to clear the ball were missed by Sunderland after the ball was sloppily given away in the midfield by Power allowed Harness to drive the ball into the bottom corner of McLaughlin’s goal.
We responded by forcing a corner and equalizing almost immediately through a corner taken by Grant Leadbitter. The skipper swung in a corner from the right wing and picked out Jordan Willis who rose highest and nodded into the back of the net just before the half hour. The game settled down a bit after the equaliser although Portsmouth’s team’s height was a factor as they won everything aerially Jack Ross' side launched up to the forwards.
Five minutes before the break Sunderland took the lead after Aiden McGeady was found by McNulty on the left wing before surging into the box skipping a couple of challenges. The Irishman then unselfishly squared the ball across the six yard box to Chris Maguire who had the simple task of slotting the ball into an empty net at the back post.
Neither side made any changes at the break but we were soon forced into a change after McNulty picked up a knock on the halfway line and was replaced by Charlie Wyke. Portsmouth had a chance ten minutes after the restart after Sunderland conceded possession but former transfer target Marquis fired wide and wasted the chance.
With half an hour to go the lads went close after a good move saw Power found just outside the box but his left footed effort was curled wide. With twenty to go Wyke done well to win a long ball and feed McGeady but after a few twists and turns his cross was held by the keeper. At the other end Portsmouth crafted a gilt edge chance down the right with Marquis squaring the ball to Evans but Jon McLaughlin denied him with a great save with his feet.
Moments later McLaughlin was called into action again as he prevented an own goal from Grant Leadbitter who had attempted to stop a cross with a diving header. Will Grigg then replaced Aiden McGeady for the final ten minutes as Jack Ross looked to seal all three points.
We had some defending to do in the closing stages of the game as the visitors pressed and forced a dangerous free kick with five minutes remaining on the right wing which was wasted. Ross then made his final change with Denver Hume replacing Chris Maguire who had just been booked.
Hume did well when he came on before the fourth official indicated four minutes added time though the lads saw this out well to seal the victory.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Portsmouth 1
ALS Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady