A disappointing day at the Stadium of Light looks to have confirmed the fact that Sunderland’s fate this season will be decided in the play-offs.
While the Black Cats’ hopes of automatic promotion aren’t over yet, Jack Ross’ are reliant on two wins at Fleetwood Town and Southend United, an eight-goal swing and a Barnsley or Luton Town defeat.
Putting that to one side for now, here are some talking points from Saturday afternoon…
BACK IN THE SIDE
Jack Ross, the players, the fans and the coaching staff were all desperate to get off to a flying start against Portsmouth to put some pressure on our promotion rivals.
Max Power took a free-kick on the right side near the corner flag that was perfectly placed onto Tom Flanagan’s head. He duly powered in a header into the bottom left corner to send the Sunderland crowd into ecstasy.
That was his second goal for the Black Cats, and his second at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland could count themselves unlucky to have not got a second goal as they saw efforts from Will Grigg and Lewis Morgan hit the goal frame in the first and second half.
A LOWE POINT
Remember Wembley? Well, the man who put Pompey 2-1 up in the Checkatrade Trophy Final continued his good scoring fortune against Sunderland with another goal.
This one may not have been of the quality as his last against the Black Cats, but it was further evidence of Jamal Lowe’s goal scoring prowess.
The big question though, is whether the ball was out of play as Brett Pittman crossed it to Lowe – but the linesman was adamant that he had kept it in.
That goal proved to be decisive, as it pulled the game level.
It was always going to be a hotly contested affair at the Stadium of Light with both clubs fighting for the promotion spots.
Both sides threw everything at the game – including their bodies.
A grand total of 33 fouls were given and many more 50-50s were waved away.
Referee Craig Pawson was busy with his cards as well, as he handed out six yellow cards. All in all, it was a feisty fixture that was played at 100 miles per hour.
Another bumper crowd came to the Stadium of Light to see Sunderland play Portsmouth and the 41,129 attendance was our second highest of the season behind the Boxing Day game against Bradford City.
Pompey deserve a lot of credit for this as they brought a big contingent of fans all the way from the south-coast for their biggest game of the season.
That attendance ranked as the second highest in the country today, behind the Tottenham Hostpur and West Ham United game.
It was also the second time that the Premier Concourse was open to the general public this season.
WHAT IT MEANS
For Sunderland, it looks like the play-offs are our destiny as we currently sit six points behind both Luton and Barnsley with a lesser goal difference.
Portsmouth still hold a small chance of going up, but they will be relying on Luton and Barnsley dropping points on the final day coupled with themselves winning their last two games of the season.
Barnsley managed to get a huge win against Blackpool as they came back from one goal down to win 2-1.
Luton continued their poor recent form, and their grip on the League One title is holding on by a thread after they lost away at Burton Albion 2-1.