The Sunderland weakness Portsmouth must target if they are to register first win since August

There is one key way which Pompey can take advantage of Sunderland during today’s showdown at Fratton Park.

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 8:00 am

Despite the visitors’ seemingly formidable form heading into the game, the Sunderland Echo’s Joe Nicholson has outlined the one are Danny Cowley’s Blues could target.

Lee Johnson’s side have only dropped four points so far this term – but his relatively inexperienced squad is yet to be tested in an intimidating environment.

And Nicholson explained how today’s sell-out clash with Pompey will be the biggest test of Sunderland’s promotion credentials so far – regardless of the home side’s current form.

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Nicholson said: ‘Portsmouth clearly have some decent players on paper, so Sunderland will have to be wary of the quality they have.

‘It’ll be a test of Sunderland’s promotion credentials going away from home to one of the biggest sides in League One and seeing how they perform.

‘It’s a pretty young Sunderland squad, so by travelling to a hostile environment like Fratton Park it may be the first time they’re being tested in that type of atmosphere.

‘The players have stepped up really well so far, but their lack of experience caught up with them against Fleetwood where they let a two-goal lead slip.

Ross Stewart has scored seven goals so far this season despite high-flying Sunderland's relative inexperience this term Picture: Frank Reid

‘This summer the club targeted much younger players from high-end academies, rather than players who have maybe been there and done it before in League One.

‘It’s given the side much more energy and they’ve adapted really well to the philosophy and style of play Lee Johnson wants to play.

‘But maybe in a more hostile atmosphere away from home, a bit of pressure may tell.

‘A weakness will be when the team is tested in tough conditions, and we’ll see as the season progresses if the young players can keep up the level of performances they’ve been able to put in.’

Individual errors have let Pompey down in their past three fixtures, and they can’t afford the same to happen this afternoon when facing the Black Cats’ top marksman Ross Stewart – with the former Ross County ace bagging seven goals already this season.

‘He has been the main man for Sunderland up front so far this season,’ said Nicholson.

‘This season he’s been on fire, and you have to say it’s been great recruitment to pick out a player like that and bring him in.

‘He’s replaced the goals that Charlie Wyke scored last season.

‘Wyke scored 30 goals in all competitions last season but Stewart has slotted into that role seamlessly, and many believe he offers a lot more than Wyke did.

‘His movement is very good and his all round game is great, too.

‘He can hold the ball up expertly but can run into channels and provide, so he’s the one Pompey will really need to look out for.’