Lower crowd than usual but Jack Ross pinpoints key role of 'remarkable' Sunderland fans in Portsmouth win
It may have been one of the lowest crowds of the season inside the Stadium of Light but one of the biggest atmospheres of the campaign helped Sunderland over the line.
The Black Cats are used to playing in front of around 30,000 for League One games but the attendance on Saturday night was just 26,610.
Not that you could tell, second half especially, led by the superb support in the Roker End, the Stadium of Light was bouncing as Chris Maguire fired Sunderland ahead.
And their backing when Portsmouth piled on the pressure helped seal a 1-0 lead heading into Thursday’s second leg.
Jack Ross said: “I thought the crowd was terrific second half.
"I mentioned the game was a bit tentative first half, the whole atmosphere was a bit like that but second half it came to life, we provided the catalyst how we started to play and the crowd responded, they played a huge part.
“The game management was good but when the atmosphere is like that in this stadium it is a terrific help to us.”
Prior to Saturday night the lowest attendance for a League One game this season was the 27,580 that watched the 1-1 draw with Blackpool in February.
On the lower than usual attendance, Ross added: “I am never going to be critical of the fanbase here, what they have done over the course of the season has been remarkable.
“The noise inside the stadium was terrific, there was a recognition of what we put into the game and this season
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“It has been a long road and we are still hanging in there looking to try and achieve success this season, I was delighted with the atmosphere and grateful for it.”
Sunderland head to Fratton Park with a one goal advantage.
Ross added: “I have had a huge amount of belief in the players all season, I trust them, they trust in how we work.
“It was the 59th game on Saturday and in a lot of them they have done well. I don’t care what anybody says, they have been good.
“They have showed different attributes at different times. They showed a lot of character and desire, I am really pleased for the players, we know there is a lot of hard work ahead of us.
“One obstacle overcome, another big one to come on Thursday.
“We went there in December when they were top of the table, it had a real big game feel about it. It is a terrific stadium and it will be the same Thursday evening.
“I am excited and looking forward to the game, we will have to play with a real commitment to win the game and equally play with composure too.
“We will rest, regroup and look forward to the build-up.”