Glenn Loovens costs Sunderland plus two defenders a January priority: Six things learned from Portsmouth defeat
Sunderland's 12-game unbeaten run in League One came to an end with the 3-1 defeat to promotion rivals Portsmouth at Fratton Park.
Here’s what we learned from the defeat.
Blame for defeat lies at feet of Glenn Loovens.
Sunderland were on course for a good point on the road at half-time at Fratton Park.
It changed in the blink of two second half minutes. Loovens caught out and collided with Oli Hawkins. He appeared to injury himself in the process.
Jon McLaughlin was charging out, there was no guarantee Hawkins would have scored and even if he did Sunderland would have been better placed to launch a fightback with 11 men had Loovens not committed a foul.
It proved costly.
Tactics worked fine first half.
Sunderland were well placed at half-time at Fratton Park. Jack Ross played a 4-1-3-2 system with Duncan Watmore and Lynden Gooch leading the attack.
Clear chances were few and far between but Sunderland had forced the only save of the game, Gooch’s effort blocked by Craig MacGillivray. It was end-to-end and fast-paced.
Sunderland were well in the game and with a strong bench including Maguire, Sinclair and McGeouch, there was options to change further when the game stretched in the second half.
The red card changed all that. Plans having to be ripped up.
Sunderland sweating on fitness of Tom Flanagan and Adam Matthews
Sunderland have been forced into a makeshift defence on more than one occasion in recent weeks, Flanagan again ruled out.
The other blow was the absence of Matthews at right-back, which meant Luke O’Nien deputising at full-back. O’Nien did well but SAFC need a settled defence again.
With Loovens set to miss the visit of Bradford through suspension and Flanagan and Matthews still a doubt, Sunderland have concerns at the back.
Defensive reinforcements key in January.
Sunderland are short of options at right-back when Matthews isn’t fit.
Bringing in another full back is a key priority.
Sunderland also need another centre-back. When Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin aren’t fit and paired together, then Sunderland look vulnerable at the back.
Loovens was caught out badly for the penalty incident, Alim Ozturk also struggled when he came on, a lack of pace causing him problems.
Sunderland have to bounce back quickly.
There is no time to rest over the busy festive period, with Bradford City the visitors to the Stadium of Light on Boxing Day.
A bumper crowd is set to support Sunderland, with 42,000+ expected.
Sunderland need to get back to winning ways quickly.
Yes they have two games in hand but Pompey already have their points in the bag, with an eight-point lead. It can’t get any longer.
Duncan Watmore’s return a major plus.
It was 13-months since Watmore’s last league start for Sunderland so it was a huge plus to see him start, leading the attack alongside Lynden Gooch, the plan to stretch the Pompey defence.
The pair worked hard, Watmore’s doggedness leading to a chance for Gooch in the first half, Gooch’s attempt blocked. He should have scored.
Yet the build-up showed what Watmore offers, relentless energy and running, he is a nightmare for defenders.