Portsmouth 0 Sunderland 2: Neil Allen's verdict - Under-fire Kenny Jackett woes deepen as awful Blues fail once again

The match was effectively over after 13 minutes at Fratton Park.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 9:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 10:13 am

Pompey, you see, don’t win games from losing positions, the most recent incident arriving in April 2019 against Coventry.

Of course, that damning statistic wasn’t the sole reason for a fifth loss in seven games.

Indeed, once Charlie Wyke was allowed a free header from a corner, the Blues players themselves didn’t believe there could be any other outcome.

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Ellis Harrison attempts to hold off Luke O'Nien during Sunderland's visit. Picture: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Confidence is low, form has flatlined and quality has deserted them during this wretched spell.

Kenny Jackett, ever optimistic over promotion chances in public circumstances, had called for a response from his men.

Thankfully there was no repeat of that Northampton first half, while considerably more effort was on display compared to that low bar.

However, what unfolded was a similarly one-sided affair, with Sunderland comfortable throughout and full value for their 2-0 success.

Not that the Fratton faithful watching from home will want to give Lee Johnson’s side too much credit for their first south-coast win in 23 years.

Nonetheless, they will acknowledge it was another immensely poor display from their supposed promotion hopefuls – and the outcome was warranted.

This abject Blues run is showing no sign of abating, unable to be reversed with each system alteration and multiple personnel change by the match.

A few weeks ago it was obvious this is now a play-off battle. Perhaps we underestimated the gravity of the situation, they may not even reach that high.

With every lethargic defeat, Jackett’s job edges towards its last rites, certainly in the eyes of a support who overwhelmingly would like him removed.

Still the board back him behind the scenes, unwilling to gamble with a caretaker appointment at this important stage of the season.

Yet Jackett and his players continue to be unable to demonstrate it’s the correct call as they plod on in this demoralising campaign.

While Charlie Wyke and Jordan Jones netted for Sunderland at Fratton Park, the Blues could not muster a decent attempt on goal.

Leading scorer John Marquis had a glorious first-half chance which he put well wide and then appealed in vain for a penalty.

Towards the end of the same half, he failed to connect with a header from six-yards out after a great ball in from the right by Tom Naylor.

And that was it, the sum of Pompey’s greatest attacking moments against a side purported to be promotion rivals before kick-off.

In truth, there was a chasm between them on the night – and in terms of form since the turn of the year.

Somehow, quite remarkably, Pompey remain in the final League One play-off spot, despite their infuriating displays.

Enough to persuade those in the Fratton Park hierarchy that promotion is not out of the equation, regardless.

But surely they have doubts over where the remaining 13 matches are heading? Like us all.

Jackett had actually overhauled his Pompey team following the Northampton debacle, making five changes.

Out went Lee Brown, Rasmus Nicolaisen, Ronan Curtis, Marcus Harness and George Byers, with all but Byers dropping to the bench.

That signalled recalls for James Bolton, Ryan Williams, Charlie Daniels, Harvey White and Ellis Harrison.

Harrison partnered John Marquis in attack in a 4-4-2, while Bolton returned at right-back, allowing Jack Whatmough to resume centre-half duties.

Williams and White occupied the flanks, with Daniels coming in at left-back, maintaining what has developed into a game-by-game rotation with Brown.

There was also a boost with Michael Jacobs back in the squad following his hamstring injury, taking his place among the substitutes

However, there was no place among the 18-men on duty for loanee Byers, who had started the 4-1 loss at Northampton.

When the match got underway, on three minutes Jordan Jones outpaced Daniels down the Black Cats’ right and delivered an excellent cross.

It was met by the head of Charlie Wyke, although deflected off Whatmough for the game’s opening corner, which then amounted to little.

On 12 minutes, Aiden McGeady cut in from the left and unleashed a fierce right-footed effort from 25-yards which was spectacularly saved by Craig MacGillivray.

From the resulting corner delivered from the right by Jones, Wyke made no mistake with a powerful header which gave the Blues keeper no chance.

Pompey’s opening flag kick arrived on 19 minutes, with White’s cross from the right headed just over the bar by Harrison.

The Blues were offering nothing, although Harrison did manage to break into the box down the left for a sniff of an opportunity.

However, the striker elected to hold onto the ball too long and his eventual attempted pass was charged down,

On 28 minutes, Marquis latched onto Williams’ clever left-footed pass to find himself with just keeper Lee Burge to beat.

The striker shot wide right-footed, only to claim for a penalty, intimating he was clipped as he shaped to shoot.

Referee David Rock didn’t agree – and neither did the replays. It was the correct decision.

At the other end, Jones’ first-time pass from distance was not struck cleanly and was comfortably taken low by MacGillivray.

During one minute of time added on, Naylor put in an excellent cross from the right, but Marquis completely missed his header from the edge of the six-yard box.

It represented a rare opportunity for the Blues, yet they were trailing 1-0 at the interval.

There were no substitutions at the break for either side, as Sunderland sought to maintain their dominant position in the second half.

It was more of the same from toothless Pompey at the start of the second period - and on 59 minutes it was 2-0 to Sunderland.

A Blues throw-in saw Cannon drive the ball back to Raggett, who was caught in possession by Jones.

The loanee from Rangers then clipped the ball from the angle over MacGillivray for a sublime finish.

Jackett immediately introduced Curtis and Jacobs for Harrison and White in an attempt to find a way back into the match.

The fixture petered out, with the Blues offering very little and Sunderland relaxing in the knowledge that the three points had been settled.

Another defeat and more calls for Jackett’s head. It is now the familiar Fratton Park story.