Stephen Elliott: Portsmouth thrashing must be a blip in Sunderland's quest for League One promotion

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Well, the past week was certainly a mixed bag when it came to results and performances from the lads in red and white shirts.

After Tuesday’s mauling of Cheltenham, which was extremely enjoyable, there was a much tougher prospect that Sunderland had to face on Saturday.

Portsmouth have become a bit of a fierce rival during our longer than expected stay in the third tier and the games have always been spicy, especially when down at the hostile south coast.

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It was always going to be a tough game away at Fratton Park but adding in the extremely poor weather that faced both teams on Saturday it became a near impossible task to play any kind of decent football.

Sunderland were beaten 4-0 by Portsmouth on Saturday. Picture by FRANK REID.Sunderland were beaten 4-0 by Portsmouth on Saturday. Picture by FRANK REID.
Sunderland were beaten 4-0 by Portsmouth on Saturday. Picture by FRANK REID.

It turned out to be the most uncomfortable afternoon of the season for Sunderland and one that they never really got to grips with.

Portsmouth would have been given a boost when seeing there was no Aiden McGeady in the away team’s starting line-up.

He has been a real thorn in their side in recent years and having someone with his experience missing was a blow for Sunderland especially given the conditions.

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There wasn’t a lot between the teams really on Saturday but the home team just adjusted to the circumstances better.

They started much better as they hurried and harassed the Sunderland team and set the tone for the afternoon.

The weather also slightly suited their more direct approach towards John Marquis, which was a lot more effective than Sunderland’s style of trying to get the ball down and play.

Lee Johnson felt himself and his team could have done a bit more on the day to make it a more competitive game and he probably is right but I’m sure they will be more prepared for games like this in the future.

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I think the manager and the team need to keep this game fresh in their mind and use it as a learning curve going forward this season.

As the weather deteriorates there are going to be more similarly difficult afternoons ahead, especially away from the Stadium of Light.

Teams may have looked at this result on Saturday and think that the soft underbelly which has been evident at important times over recent years has reappeared.

It’s now up to the team and the manager to show that Saturday was a blip. When the going gets tough between now and the end of the season keeping a strong mind and adapting the way the team plays may be required.

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Sunderland won’t always be able to play intricate passes through the lines.

Especially when the conditions are similar to Saturday.

Should a longer ball approach be required then a positive result will still be strongly possible, especially with our own “Loch Ness Drogba” Ross Stewart leading the line.

Although Portsmouth ran out 4-0 winners, I didn’t think there was that much of a difference between the two teams.

If we compare the points on the board at this stage of the season in all the other League One campaigns then it makes for positive reading.

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There are 36 games left and I still feel like this squad can be the one that finally gets this club out of this division.

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