Portsmouth 1 Sunderland 1: sorry Niall, sorry Steve

Another game against lowly opposition, another failure to show ourselves to be in a different class. Colin Randall endures last-ditch heartbreak – and a missed golden opportunity to win for a change – at Fratton Park

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: if only you had taken the players on a pre-match inspection of the away end at Portsmouth last night: primitive toilets and catering, narrow steps and a shockingly congested exit path at the top of the stand …

It might have stopped them putting in another ultimately inadequate performance of the kind that threatens to lead us back to the Championship – where such conditions are the norm.

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: you asked for support and understanding. What better display could you have wished for than the big, passionate, noisy turnout on a cold Tuesday evening at the opposite end of the country?

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: but what better start could you expect to a game than to be one up and facing 10 men, those 10 men from the bottom side?

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: no amount of huffing and puffing, and honest endeavour, can make up for the deficiencies we witnessed last night. Bleatings about unlucky injuries would be more convincing if players were not so ill-disciplined and immature as to turn a one-man advantage into a one-man disadvantage, conceding a string of needless free kicks in dangerous areas along the way.

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: a heroic rearguard action, with desperate headed clearances and last-ditch blocks but each time the ball returning to an opposing player, is acceptable against the top four, not the bottom club.

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: ploughing forward purposefully against limited opponents (down to 10 men), but fumbling and bumbling on reaching the penalty box, is not the way to seize a great opportunity to kill a game by half time. Nor is being outpaced at the back, and looking for all the world as if we are the team one man short when Pompey are on the attack, a good recipe for hanging on to a slender lead.

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: but some of us are at a loss to see where the next win might be found. Last night’s squandering of two points means a team that already carries pressure badly will be under unbearable strain when we face Fulham at the SoL on Feb 28 – the small matter of Arsenal away by then behind us.

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: scraping through the rest of the season, in the hope that other under-achievers do the job for us and keep us up again, is incompatible with the express wishes – and target for this season – of the owner. Not to mention what the fans think.

Sorry Niall, sorry Steve: but it is quite unpardonable for a Sunderland AFC team to turn out in a white strip when the home team’s colours are blue. What next – black and white stripes for the occasional home game?

Sorry Salut! Sunderland readers: for having nothing really positive to say. The sinking feeling on leaving Fratton Park last night confirmed to those experiencing it that a draw conceded in the 96th minute to relegation favourites was not so much better than a defeat.

But we started with an if only and will end with a few more. The heroic Rob Hutchison, who drove me back to London, had reverted to Glass Half Full status by the time we approached the M25. “If only Bent had put away his one to one, Jones had slid in and got to that cross at the far post or the lob had gone in, we’d be happy with a job well done. And I still think a top half finish – though a big ask – is a possibility.”

6 thoughts on “Portsmouth 1 Sunderland 1: sorry Niall, sorry Steve”

  1. I hear you Jeremy – but at the start of the season the evidence was piling up in the form of great performances. We looked slick – and competing and sometimes even out-playing some of the top teams was no illusion. When we got beat 2-0 at Spurs it was one of the only times I can remember feeling happy after getting beat. Because we totally played them off the park, and the standard of our passing, and some of the football was immense. I have been through many false dawns but this one looked for the whole world to be genuine. It is gut-wrenching to have had such high hopes, with such promise for the future, restored to the same old scrimshank we have had to endure for decades. Make no mistake, we are in relegation form, currently by quite some margin the worst team in the league, and I still can’t understand it.

  2. That’s a great post. When we played so well against the big teams it was probably a case of playing above ourselves, rather like a non league side in the FA Cup. The evidence which is piling up in the form of awful performances and results strongly suggests that these were a series of lightly punctuated false dawns with which we are too sadly familiar.

  3. What a great article. I am a life-long Sunderland fan now living in Vancouver, Canada. With the 8 hour time difference, I haul my weary bottom out of bed at unhealthy times of the morning to watch or listen to the match. For years I have had to endure utter rubbish from players that would be better suited to the national tiddly-wink Derby. Our Niall is a hero and I believe in him and his commitment to turning the club around. I concur with the guy in a recent blog who said that Niall is the only guy in the world who could sleep with his wife. Well – he could sleep with mine too – while I drop grapes into his mouth and file the hard skin on the soles of his feet. However – how much longer do we have to wait?? When we beat Liverpool and Arsenal I was leaping around the house like a Schizophrenic chicken, thinking “finally”. We actually made a fist of it against the top teams, and the football was unrecognizably good! It looked like we had a team befitting of our stadium, our stature, and our remarkable fans. What followed was oh so typical, if somewhat unexpected. I like Steve Bruce, and I like the signings he’s made, so I was prepared to give him and the team the benefit of the doubt as regards injuries and suspensions. But last night’s showing was pitifully inept, reaching new levels of ridiculousness. What better chance could a team have – being one nil and one player up against the bottom side, struggling not only on the pitch but in every single other department. The overwhelmingly disappoinitng aspect of it for me was how Portsmouth became the better team, they obviously wanted it more, and they had our “defence” (a term I use very loosely) running around in circles. My question is this. How can a team performing as well as we were at the start of the season, contrive to perform so poorly in the last 12 games? How is it possible to have been so good to become so bad? My answer – we are Sunderland. I guess it’s true that you can’t polish a turd. My immediate concern is that Ellis must be fed up to the back teeth of flashing his wallet to no avail. How lonh will he continue to waste his time and money? So sorry Niall, sorry Steve, unless the long-suffering amongst us finally get a team to be proud of, my wife will have to settle for little old me.

  4. I should have added, in fairness, that i thought Kenwyne Jones had a great game, superb up front – though suffering the usual dearth of decent service – and a tower of strength at the back. Gordon was generally sound, and made crucial interventions at times, and two players who get a lot of stick, McCartney and Malbranque, until he had to go off with chest pains, also did well. But we should have been out of sight by half time; Pompey’s threat in the first 45 sprang chiefly from getting players to fall over in the penalty box and throw up their arms to the ref. It wasn’t until later that they realised our goal was there for the pounding.

  5. Could not agree more, my sentiments exactly after having watched the game. We are a poor footballing team, bereft of ideas and tactical know how and passion.

    Portsmouth out fought, out played and ultimately out classed us having sold most of there bankable assessets.

    There is a continuing malaise at the Sol and it needs to be sorted or else we will be dependent upon the poor form of other teams to maintain our Premiership credentials ……… just like last season.

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