Pompey 4-0 Sunderland - the Final Verdict: The high-stakes call Danny Cowley got right and the challenge now for John Marquis

Pompey writer Jordan Cross discusses the key talking points from the Blues’ 4-0 victory against Sunderland and provides hope that both the club and striker John Marquis have finally turned a corner following a difficult couple of weeks.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 2:28 pm
Updated Monday, 4th October 2021, 2:41 pm

Here’s his responses to the questions were put to him in our Pompey 4-0 Sunderland Final Verdict…

Q There was a lot of trepidation heading into Saturday's game against Sunderland. There was no need, though. What a performance that was!

It was much-needed. It was just the boost that Pompey needed.

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There was a lot of pressure going into the game at the weekend, so to see the response from the players (was good).

Following Burton on Tuesday, people were quite rightly asking questions, none more than Danny Cowley.

So, yes, it was a much-needed result and performance, which we haven't seen matched together of late.

We've had a couple of decent performances against Plymouth and Charlton which didn't deliver the result.

John Marquis, left, scored two and set up another in Pompey's 4-0 demolition of Sunderland, while manager Danny Cowley kept faith in the same starting XI that lost to Burton just days earlier.

Then the performance and result were both missing at Burton, so to get them both and see Pompey play with such intensity was just the fillip that was needed at the moment.

Q Where did come from? Were the players desperate to put the Burton wrongs right? Has it all of a sudden clicked for Pompey, or were Sunderland simply very poor?

Obviously, with the conditions being a talking point, I thought Pompey just adopted much better to them than Sunderland. I think that was a factor.

I think also there was a hunger amongst the players to put things right after the Burton defeat.

It's interesting that Danny Cowley wanted to continue with the same team.

He looked at the players and felt it was right to give them the opportunity to put the Burton performance right.

It was a high-stakes one, though, because we know what would have happened if the result had gone the other way.

He would have been wide open to criticism - and he was well aware of that.

And let's have it right - there was pressure building on Danny Cowley heading into that game, there was criticism from supporters, probably unjustified so early into his tenure.

There was some flak flying and Danny felt that.

It was really harsh and I think to give the players the opportunity to put it right was a shrewd manoeuvre but one which was a brave one from Danny and I think that was a key part in the performance.

Q Were you surprised to see Danny Cowley stick to the 3-4-3 formation? Is this the Pompey formation moving forward?

The formation, again, was a big talking point going into the game.

Pompey had been let down in previous games, perhaps by more individual mistakes.

So, yeah, there were some raised eyebrows.

But, again, in hindsight, it paid off perfectly.

Pompey were resilient and the few openings that did come Sunderland's way, a lot of them were to do with the conditions.

I know it's in Danny Cowley's thinking not to be defined by one formation - I don't think he gets too wrapped up in formations and is flexible in the way that they operate.

He's long wanted the opportunity to play with a back three.

And, hopefully, Connor Ogilvie will be back after the international break - that will be a big factor moving forward.

There's no reason to change it at the moment, injuries permitting.

But it's in Danny Cowley’s thoughts just to be flexible with the formation.

Q In all honesty, should game have been abandoned because of the conditions?

My thoughts on it are: the referee started the game with the ball not moving smoothly in the corners of the pitch.

That was the same for the 90 minutes.

It did deteriorate, I thought the ball rolled through the middle of the pitch but not in the corners.

So once the referee started the game in those conditions, he sort of had to roll with it really and that is what offered me encouragement.

But it was tough and I could see why Sunderland wanted the game abandoned given the way the goals had been going in.

Lee Johnson was vehemently in the referee's ear, along with some of his players, but he spoke very well and refused to blame the conditions afterwards.

I think his beef was with the referee saying the ball was rolling.

So the conditions did deteriorate as the game went on and we had our heart in our mouth to some extent thinking it could be an abandonment.

But I just think, once the referee started with the game in those conditions that he set a precedent for himself and he had to continue unless the players were really in danger.

Q John Marquis scored two on Saturday and set up Lee Brown for his goal. He deserves credit for that amid much criticism and there's been many backing him to start finding the goals on a regular basis again. Is this Marquis back to his best or is the jury still out?

I thought John Marquis was man of the match on Saturday with two goals and an assist.

It's been a tough time for him, it hasn't gone his way.

But when it hasn't gone his way I think Danny Cowley believes that he offers something to the team in terms of setting the tone for the press.

Obviously, it's the life of a striker to score goals - that's their stock and trade.

As much as what you do for the team off the ball, John knows that he'll be judged on his goal return, which has not been good enough.

A bit like Pompey as a whole, I think it will be a line in the sand.

Danny described last week as one of the toughest weeks of his life, with everything that has been going on and the pressure building, and he wants it to be a catalyst and a springboard for Pompey.

I think that goes individually for John Marquis as well.

He is a bit of a streaky player, he does score his goals in bunches, so the hope is, once he has got off and running, that will boost his confidence.

That's crucial, because he hasn't delivered enough goals and we need him firing.

Even if you are scoring goals from different areas of the pitch, you need your striker to be contributing, and that's the big challenge for John Marquis moving forward.

Q Have Pompey turned the corner?

That's got to be the hope.

With Sunderland being top of the table and Pompey to perform so emphatically against them, let’s hope so.

I think it gave supporters a bit of conviction that this is what their team can aspire to and that they do have the capability.

The key factor for me is Pompey took their chances on Saturday - they hadn't done that in their previous games.

I think they probably, in a lot of games in this run, underperformed in their XG.

I think their XG on Saturday was 1.9, but they scored four goals, so they've overperformed emphatically.

And that's the key factor - Pompey taking their openings which come their way.

That's for them to do if they are to turn the corner. That has to be the fundamental factor.

They're now in range of the play-offs, just three or four points off.

And, for me, that remains the ambition this season - to be in and around the play-off battle moving forward.

I hope they can go on a run now and get themselves back in the mix.