Portsmouth goal hero lifts lid on Sunderland players' attempts to abandon League One encounter

Marcus Harness has revealed the lengths of Sunderland’s players’ determination to abandon Saturday’s Fratton Park encounter.

Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 4:30 pm

And Pompey’s first goalscorer has praised referee Ben Toner for refusing to let the visitors ‘get into his head’.

The Blues demolished League One’s leaders 4-0, with Lee Brown and John Marquis (two) also on the scoresheet.

However, the match was under threat throughout, with torrential rain and an increasingly saturated pitch which would eventually prevent the ball from travelling smoothly.

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Certainly there were fears of an abandonment – although Sunderland boss Lee Johnson and his players clearly had an ulterior motive for wanting it called off.

And Harness was pleased the match official would not give in to the opposition’s pressure.

He told The News: ‘They were trying to get it called off from when they were 3-0 down!

‘We were hoping the ref would stay strong and not give in to their pressure – and thankfully he ignored them and we got the 4-0 win.

Marcus Harness puts Sunderland defender Dennis Cirkin under pressure in Saturday's 4-0 Pompey win. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘From the first half they were telling him that the ball wasn’t moving right in the corners. It always happens in football, things like that attempting to get into a referee’s head.

‘The conditions weren’t ideal. The pitch was good in the first half, it was holding up a bit in the corners, but for the most part it was okay.

‘Then we came out in the second half and there was quite a bit of water on there, although in the middle of the pitch the ball was moving well.

‘In a game with the wind and the rain like that, you don’t want to take much risk. You probably have to put the ball into the corners quite a lot.

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‘We dealt with it and made some good decisions, such as putting the ball over the top of them into the corners, and not giving them any chance of getting a sniff in the game.

‘It was good game management from us and we saw it through until the end.’

With victory representing a maiden Pompey win in nine matches, the hosts had even reason for wanting the game to reach a natural culmination.

And, according to Harness, some of his team-mates had their own dialogue with referee Toner.

He added: ‘I didn’t really speak to the referee, some of the (Pompey) lads were, trying to keep him on side.

‘But I didn’t get involved so I’m not sure what he was thinking about keeping the game in. I’m just glad the match played through to the end and we can move onto the next one.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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