The story of the evening as Sunderland ease past Portsmouth in dominant display - and put pressure on League One top two
Sunderland travel to Portsmouth this evening hoping to make it eight games unbeaten in all competitions.
The Black Cats' fine form of late has propelled them back into promotion contention and they currently sit on the periphery of the automatic promotion places after some impressive results.
And victory at Fratton Park this evening could put further pressure on the top two while boosting Sunderland's chances of a return to the Championship.
But while Portsmouth have been out-of-sorts of late, they have always proven a stern test in League One and tonight promises to be no different.
Lee Johnson is hopeful of some late fitness boosts, but could be forced to make do once again with a makeshift back four.
We'll have the latest from the clash via our writers Phil Smith and Mark Donnelly, as we see whether Sunderland can make it three wins on the spin – and claim a first win at Portsmouth since 1997:
FT: Portsmouth 0-2 Sunderland AFC (Wyke 13, Jones 59)
Last updated: Tuesday, 09 March, 2021, 19:39
- Sunderland travel to Portsmouth this evening looking to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to eight games.
- They face a Pompey side who have won just one of their last six league games.
- Lee Johnson may freshen up his side with Wembley on the horizon - with Lynden Gooch in-line to return.
- SAFC XI: Burge; Power, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean; Jones, Winchester, Scowen, McGeady; Wyke, O’Brien
And welcome to our live blog!
Well this feels like a big one, doesn’t it?
Sunderland haven’t won at Fratton Park since 1997 but head to the south coast full of confidence and looking to put further pressure on the top two in League One.
Portsmouth, in contrast, have won just one of their last six and in Kenny Jackett have a manager coming under some heavy pressure.
So it’s set up to be an intirguing and entertaining evening - and we’ll have full coverage of it right here!
I’m Mark Donnelly and, along with chief football writer Phil Smith, I’ll be bringing you the latest from the big game throughout the night.
So, let’s get cracking...
Here’s the state of play in League One ahead of kick-off...
Sunderland could climb to third if results go their way tonight, and are putting some real pressure on the top two after their recent results.
Portsmouth, meanwhile, are just about clinging-on to a play-off place after their poor run of form.
And here’s the full list of fixtures in the third tier tonight:
- Peterborough United v Hull City (7pm)
- Rochdale v Shrewsbury Town (7pm)
- Charlton Athletic v Northampton Town (7pm)
- Ipswich Town v Lincoln City (7pm)
- Plymouth Argyle v Wigan Athletic (7pm)
- AFC Wimbledon v Burton Albion (7pm)
- Crewe Alexandra v Doncaster Rovers (7pm)
- MK Dons v Blackpool (7pm)
- Swindon Town v Oxford United (7pm)
- Bristol Rovers v Accrington Stanley (7pm)
- Fleetwood Town v Gillingham (7:45pm)
Sunderland boss Lee Johnson has been looking ahead to tonight’s game...
And with Wembley on the horizon, he’s naturally been quizzed on which game takes the most significance.
Here’s his response:
I don’t think it’s any more important than any other.
It’s three points at the end of the day and we’ve just got to focus on what we do well.
We’ll look at their threats but we will go for three points whoever we play.
What’s been happening at Portsmouth?
The south coast side are in a poor run of form and manager Kenny Jackett is coming under increasing pressure.
Pompey have won just one in six and were trounced at struggling Northampton on Saturday, but the 59-year-old believes he can turn things around.
“The nature of it is as a manager is the buck stops with me,” said Jackett.
“I know that and accept that.
“The results have been disappointing and hard to take. You do feel it 100 per cent as a manager. There is no doubt about it.
“To be able to make sure you can put that right is everything in your thinking.
“It envelopes you, and quite rightly so, because you should be committed to turning things around and putting on a performance that builds confidence with the players.
“All you can do is plan the next session and the next game.
“There has to be an accurate assessment of what you need to do and where you need to improve. That’s as a team.
“Then you need to set the mood moving forward to put things right with good performances and good results - starting on Tuesday.”
Tonight begins a tough run-in for Sunderland
And our man Phil Smith has been taking a look at how the Black Cats’ final fixtures compare to those around them.
(spoiler alert: it’s not a paritculalry pleasant run-in...)
Why Sunderland face the toughest run-in in League One and the reasons for optimism ahead of key tests
Now it really feels like the business end.
The latest Sunderland and Portsmouth team news...
Here’s how both squads are shaping up ahead of the clash...
The Black Cats are hoping for a late selection boost in the form of Lynden Gooch - who missed the win over Rochdale with a calf problem.
Gooch trained on Monday and will be assessed today ahead of the game.
The visit to Portsmouth is likely to come too soon for Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan, with Denver Hume, Grant Leadbitter and Ross Stewart also set to miss out.
Conor McLaughlin was one player who could have returned in time for the fixture, but he may not be risked.
Arbenit Xhemajli and Jordan Willis remain longer-term absentees.
Pompey could welcome back attacking midfielder Michael Jacobs after a period out with injury.
Full-back James Bolton is also set to return, while Kenny Jackett could hand a first start to striker Jordy Hiwula - but goalkeeper Alex Bass is out.
What are the odds for Portsmouth v Sunderland?
Despite their poor form of late, Portsmouth are the slight favourites for this clash.
League One title sponsors SkyBet have the hosts at 29/20, with Sunderland 7/4. The draw is 9/4.
Charlie Wyke is favourite to open the scoring at 10/3 - after netting his 25th of the season at the weekend.
How can I watch Portsmouth v Sunderland? Is there a live stream?
Portsmouth v Sunderland will be broadcast on TV, with coverage available on Sky Sports.
The game will be available to watch on Sky Sports Football, with coverage beginning at 7:30pm. You can also watch the game on Now TV.
This means the usual coverage on SAFC.com is not available.
Get involved with the discussion tonight!
We want you to get involved with the match day discussion tonight, so make sure you share your thoughts on tonight’s game with the hashtag #SAFCWATCH.
There’s been a late swing in the odds...
While Portsmouth were favourites with SkyBet earlier in the day, it’s now Sunderland being backed to win!
We’re sure they’ll change several times more before kick-off, too - this one seems too close to call for many...
Some big squad news!
And potentially a big boost defensively for Lee Johnson - with Tom Flanagan having travelled with the squad to the south coast!
BREAKING: THE TEAM NEWS IS IN!
And here’s how Sunderland line-up: Burge; Power, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean; Jones, Winchester, Scowen, McGeady; Wyke, O’Brien
And on the bench: Matthews, Flanagan, Maguire, Gooch, Diamond, Neil, Vokins
That’s just one change from the weekend as Scowen comes in for Younger.
It looks to be a 4-4-2 for Sunderland with Power at right-back.
On the bench, Tom Flanagan and Lynden Gooch return in a welcome boost when it comes to numbers. Flanagan’s return is something of a surprise, though!
And here’s how Portsmouth line-up...
They too look to be in a 4-4-2, so this could be an interesting one!
Half an hour to go!
And the nerves are starting to ramp-up a bit now.
Sunderland are out to warm-up at Fratton Park where the pitch is looking in very decent condition.
We’ve also got all the usual EFL decorations in place - you can tell it’s a televised game!
The pre-match view from both camps is in!
SkySports have been conducting their pre-match interviews...
I think we’ve been energetic, bright and the boys are playing with confidence. Behind the ball we’ve had a good structure, but it’ll be tested today.
We’ll have to show strong resolve to play the football we want to play.
I know Kenny Jackett well and I know the values he brings to a team. I would expect a big reaction.
First off we have to compete against a very good Sunderland side. I do feel having some natural full-backs now available helps in terms of the balance of the team.
We’re disappointed with the way things have gone, but we’re very much in it and the opportunity is there. Tonight we will improve.
Sunderland will always be a force, but having a big game is good for us.