After the Burton debacle, all signs point to a humbling for Pompey at Fratton against table-toppers Sunderland on Saturday. However, a full Fratton, underdogs, against Sunderland, could be a recipe for a surprise Pompey win.
Let’s not hide behind the facts that Pompey’s display against Burton lacked any of the attacking impetuous needed to secure a win at this level. John Marquis and Ellis Harrison have had enough chances to display what they are capable of in a Blue shirt.
Changes are a necessity if they wish to gain anything from Saturday’s clash. Gassan Ahadme has not been given a chance in recent weeks and can count himself very unlucky to be sat behind the ineffective George Hirst in the Pompey ranks.
Ahadme was given a chance at the start of the season, but not as an out-and-out number nine. The Moroccan has shown his excellent finishing ability and deserves a chance to demonstrate what he can in a position that gets him as close to the goals as possible.
At present none of Pompey’s striking options deserve a chance to showcase what they can do – Marquis hasn’t been firing for months, Ellis Harrison should’ve been let go at the end of the window, and George Hirst’s insipid display at Charlton doesn’t merit him starting. At least we know what Ahadme is capable of.
It is hard to picture how Pompey can target any weaknesses in this Sunderland side. Lee Johnson’s men have been superb in the early stages of the season. A unique style of recruitment has seen immediate results, and with a young side, they should only get better.
One avenue that could be an avenue for Pompey to exploit is how Sunderland will look to take the game to Pompey. Much like Burton did. If Pompey can play out of the Sunderland press more effectively, as they did at Charlton, then they could create the odd chance.
However, for this to happen the Blues must move the ball more efficiently than they did against the Brewers. Too many times the Pompey’s back three were too reluctant to play the ball into the middle of the park quickly. This resulted in Burton pinning Danny Cowley’s side back and ultimately forcing them into mistakes which led to both their goals.
It will take bravery and being confident on the ball, but it looks like one of the main ways for Pompey to avoid being under pressure for the majority of the game. If the Blues cannot play out, this Sunderland side will have too much for Pompey’s threadbare defence.
The away side look to have finally found the formula to finally escape League One. A mixture of experience and astute youthful signings is very different from what we have seen from Sunderland in the past.
Losing Charlie Wyke could have been a significant blow, but Ross Stewart seems to have taken up the number nine position with ease, with many Sunderland fans indicating Stewart as an upgrade on Wyke.
The Scot has the mobility to run the channels whilst also being able to compete physically. If he peels off onto Freeman and Williams, he will cause Pompey all sorts of problems.
The sensible pundit would predict a Sunderland win, however, a part of me does feel that Pompey could sneak a point out of this fixture; at the Stadium of Light last year, Pompey were massive underdogs but came away 3-1 winners.
The home crowd and Sunderland’s record against Pompey at a full Fratton give me a glimmer of hope. Pompey will have to pull out their best performance of the season to stand a chance and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was on Saturday.
Ronan Curtis to open the scoring in a 1-1 draw would be my punt.
Photo: Below 2020 Media