Portsmouth miss out on League One promotion after crashing out of play-offs to Sunderland

Pompey will spend another season in League One after suffering play-off semi-final heartbreak to Sunderland.

Thursday, 16th May 2019, 11:51 pm
Oli Hawkins had a decent chance saved by Jon McLaughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler
Oli Hawkins had a decent chance saved by Jon McLaughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues were held to a goalless stalemate in the second leg at Fratton Park, meaning they lost the tie 1-0 after being defeating by a single goal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Gareth Evans, Oli Hawkins and James Vaughan all had decent opportunities to level the aggregate score up – but were kept out by defiant Black Cats keeper Jon McLaughlin.

However, in truth, the hosts rarely penetrated Jack Ross’ side’s defence and miss out on a second trip to Wembley this season.

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Oli Hawkins had a decent chance saved by Jon McLaughlin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Kenny Jackett made three changes from the 1-0 first-leg defeat.

Brett Pitman and Lee Brown both passed fitness tests to feature after being ruled out of the Stadium of Light clash through respective hamstring and Achilles injuries.

The curveball, however, was both Jamal Lowe and Ronan Curtis were dropped to the bench, with Viv Solomon-Otabor and Gareth Evans starting down either side.

For the visitors, an ongoing foot injury again ruled out talisman Aiden McGeady.

Jack Ross made two switches from Saturday, with goalscorer Chris Maguire coming into the Black Cats’ starting XI along with Grant Leadbitter for Lynden Gooch and Lewis Morgan. 

Sunderland had the first sight of goal in just the second minute when Grant Leadbitter’s well-struck effort was gathered adeptly by home keeper Craig MacGillivray.

In the eighth minute, Bryan Ovideo’s cross picked out Lee Cattermole but he couldn’t adjust his feet correctly and steered well wide.

Tom Naylor was perhaps lucky not to have received an early red card after 10 minutes when he threw the ball at Maguire's head after being hacked down near the corner flag.

The Blues mustered their first attempt on goal in the 13th minute when the ball fell for Ben Close 25 yards out but he fired well over the bar.

MacGillivray was forced into another important stop six minutes later when Max Power put in a dangerous cross but the Blues keeper punched clear with several red and white shirts lurking in behind. 

The game ebbed and followed and at the other end of the pitch Hawkins played in Evans but he fired wide on 25 minutes.

Three minutes later, Pompey produced some neat football, with Pitman trying to pick out Hawkins at the back stick but the striker just couldn't get there to head home. 

Evans subsequently had a left-foot effort deflected for a corner.

Jacket’’s men were given a scare in the 36th minute when Maguire latched on to Leadbitter's ball and flicked it over MacGillivray’s head. However, the Sunderland forward’s slip allowed Burgess to turn behind for a corner.

Five minutes before half-time, the hosts missed a gilt-edged chance to level up the tie.

Lee Brown's cross was cushioned down by Hawkins for Evans but his diving header from close range was kept out by McLaughlin.

From the result corner, Clarke’s header flicked off the top of the crossbar after digging his effort into the ground. 

Just like in the first period, Sunderland had an early effort in the second but Oviedo failed to keep his half-volley down.

Jackett made his first change in the 52nd minute when Lowe was introduced for Solomon-Otabor. 

And in the same minute Evans and Brown linked up well down the left. The latter’s cross picked out Hawkins, whose header was kept out finely by McLaughlin. 

James Vaughan then replaced Hawkins on 68 minutes in the hope of a goal. 

And the striker almost made an immediate impact when Pitman hooked a ball across goal but Vaughan’s header was thwarted by the legs of McLaughlin.

In the 72 minute Matt Clarke wanted a penalty when he claimed to be held back from Evans' free-kick but referee Peter Bankes wasn’t interested.

Pompey pushed to find a way back into the tie, but Sunderland’s stoic defending stifled everything that came at them.

With the scoreline finishing level on the night, it means Ross’ troops advance to the play-off final to face either Charlton or Doncaster.

And for Pompey, it means they’ll spent a third successive season in League One.