Gaffer: Portsmouth defeat at Sunderland was a positive – now we’ll get through at Fratton Park

Gaffer for a Day, Olly Birch, aged 28 from Brighton, dissects Pompey’s play-off semi-final 1-0 defeat at Sunderland.

Sunday, 12th May 2019, 2:53 pm
The pain is etched on the players' faces following Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Sunderland. Picture: Joe Pepler

What did you make of that?

The performance was okay and there was a lot more control than previous meetings, but both teams cancelled each other out.

We were just missing that creative spark, which Brett Pitman would have provided had he been fit.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

I don’t think we are that short. The first half we were on top and looked like we could win the match, we controlled it.

I didn’t feel threatened by Sunderland whatsoever, I never felt they were going to run away with it – but a lovely goal was the difference.


A long day for the 1,288 travelling fans as well.

Our Lucketts coach got back to Fratton Park at 5am on Sunday, but then I had to drop my brother off in Tunbridge Wells. We arrived there at 7am!

It was a good trip, though. Obviously the result wasn’t great but it had to be done, we’ll miss it when the season is over.

There are almost 15,000 fewer than the attendance a fortnight earlier, which was a bit weird, and their fans were quiet until they scored.

It was a really different atmosphere and generally most of our support were pleased with the performance. Most understand that’s our limit, Sunderland have a better squad.


Who was your man of the match?

Sometimes when Matt Clarke is running past midfielders and defenders you wonder why our forwards aren’t doing that!

He completely created the sending off of Alim Ozturk by charging up from the back and putting the ball through for Gareth Evans.

Clarke is quality, completely above the standard in this division, and it’s interesting seeing Charlie Wyke want to go up against Christian Burgess and not him!

When your centre-half is trying to give the team its creativity then you know something is missing.


How do you now view the balance of this semi-final?

I think coming away with a 1-0 defeat is a positive and can see us winning at Fratton Park to go to Wembley.

If we had won 1-0 or 2-0, returning to our place on Thursday would be nerves, nerves, nerves. We would be sitting deep like we normally do.

As it is, we have to attack Sunderland – and, as fans, we also perform better when it is backs against the wall.

I can see it being resolved in extra-time or possibly penalties.


Craig MacGillivray 7

Nathan Thompson 7

Christian Burgess 7

Matt Clarke 8

Anton Walkes 7

Tom Naylor 7

Ben Close 6

Jamal Lowe 5

Gareth Evans 5

Ronan Curtis 5

Oli Hawkins 4