Jack Ross praises Fratton Park atmosphere but believes Sunderland have the character to thrive and keep calm against Portsmouth

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Jack Ross believes his Sunderland players have the character to thrive and keep calm in the white-hot atmosphere expected to be generated at Fratton Park tonight.

Pompey host the Black Cats in the second leg of their League One play-off semi-final, with a sold-out, fervent home section set to greet the Wearsiders.

Blues boss Kenny Jackett has already spoken of the important role the Fratton faithful will play in tonight’s proceedings.

And the PO4 natives, no doubt, will be well up to play their part as they bid to help their side overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.

That opening play-off game saw players from both teams square up to each other at the final whistle – a feature, also, from the 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light at the end of last month.

There’s clearly a rivalry brewing between the sides as they prepare to go head-to-head for the fifth time this season.

Sunderland boss Jack Ross

Sunderland boss Jack Ross

And with both enthralling Championship play-off semi-finals seeing the eventual losers having players dismissed in the pressure-cooker atmosphere, Ross emphasised the need for his players to keep their cool – advice he’s confident they’ll take.

Speaking to the Sunderland Echo, he said: ‘There's a familiarity and a competitiveness between the players.

‘We'll touch on it a bit as a group but we won't make a big deal of it.

‘I've spoken to players individually, they understand the importance of being composed and disciplined in the game in different aspects, primarily with the ball but secondly in terms of controlling your emotions.

‘I must admit, we've played each other four times but I've not sensed, I've not seen any tackles that I've thought ridiculous or over the top.

‘It's been physical, competitive, but I've not seen anything between the two teams that was out of order.

‘Everything else that goes, I enjoy that.

‘We've got quite a lot that are looking forward to it (the atmosphere), ready to go.

‘Players that have played in atmospheres like that, that have handled it and that thrive in it.

‘As a manager, it's a good stadium to play football in, a proper football stadium, and we had a taste of that in December.

‘It's one you where you walk out there, stand tall, put your chest out and say I'm going to try and deal with the challenges it brings.

‘I'm confident I've got a group that will do that.’