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Portsmouth boss speaks on failed Sunderland bid to get game called off at half time

Portsmouth boss Danny Cowley speaks on the failed Sunderland bid to get the League One game called off at half time on Saturday.

John Marquis scored twice as Pompey thrashed the high-flying Black Cats to claim their first victory since the 17th of August.

Marcus Harness and captain Lee Brown were also on the scoresheet to ease the pressure on the Fratton Park outfit’s manager.

In the torrential rain, Pompey broke the deadlock on the 19th minute when Harness rounded off a sweeping counter-attack with a deflected goal.

Defender Brown doubled the lead with around 10 minutes before half time, his third goal of the season, poked home from close range.

On the stroke of half time, striker Marquis touched in a Ronan Curtis free kick, getting second goal just after the hour, tucking in the rebound after Sunderland keeper Ron-Thorben Hoffman had kept out his initial effort.

Sunderland manager Lee Johnson complained the game should have been called off because of a waterlogged pitch late on, but there was no saving his side from a humiliating defeat.

Over 2,100 supporters made the trip to cheer on Sunderland and they couldn’t believe their eyes as their team fell apart following a strong start to the campaign.

Sunderland were also booed off at half time, but at full time the fans did end up giving the players a decent reception despite the scoreline.

“Probably the most painful bit is that we have let them down,” Lee Johnson said.

“We have to take our medicine on the back of that, but in fairness I suppose the boys had earned the credit of a good reception after a really poor game [by virtue of previous results].

“They were amazing, and I feel so bad for them – and I’m sure the team feel the same way.

“All we can do, I suppose, is try to put it right for them in the next set of away games.”

He said: “You pick a team to win a game, and you pick a team based on good form.

“It was just a lack of savvy, wasn’t it?

“Do you question whether the boys were complacent? You have to ask that question, because in the first five minutes or so we were so laissez faire.

“I’m not saying that mentally they were like that [complacent] but that was what it looked like to me.

“Therefore we gave Portsmouth a leg-up from the start to about 10-12 minutes when they were camped in our half, but it was still 0-0.”

Johnson said: “It’s about protecting the players, isn’t it?

“If we are 4-0 up or if they are 4-0 up, the decision has to be made on merit in terms of whether there is a danger to the players.

“If it is [a danger], you call it off and replay it; if not, you continue the game.

“And he [the referee] obviously didn’t feel it was dangerous.”

Johnson spoke to the officials about the state of the pitch, and while he refused to use it as an excuse he was unhappy with the response he received.

He said: “I considered their take on it ridiculous.

“They said that the ball was rolling cleanly, and that was wound me up.

“Is it safe or is it not? That’s down to the referee or the officials to decide, it’s their prerogative and fair enough.

“But don’t tell me that the ball is rolling cleanly.”

He added: “Portsmouth played the conditions better than us, it’s as simple as that.

“I thought they had more bite in the tackle, they had some nice breaks of the ball but that was due to their energy and cohesion in the press, and our poor quality.

“Conditions were tricky today, and we said that this would be our test as a young team and today we have been found wanting completely on that test.

“This is one game, losing the three points that have hurt us because we believed that we could come here and win the football match, but there are lessons to be learned.

“Our philosophy is quite adaptable, we don’t restrict players to having 1,000 passes, we work the switch and we slide balls up the side for willing runners – that option was there for players today, but they didn’t use it.

“It’s disappointing from the point of view of the leadership of the team, and I include myself in that, because clearly we didn’t articulate that, and they didn’t recognise it anywhere near quickly enough.

“It shouldn’t have taken long to realise that there was quite a bit of space down the sides, and we have got quite a lot of speed down the sides.

“It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to find the spare player and slide the ball down the side.”

But Cowley said the ground staff were the real standout performers as they ensured the match got finished to allow the Blues to record their first league win since mid-August.

Speaking to BBC Solent, the Blues boss said: ‘I thought we we better kicking into the shallow end!

‘And once we got arm bands for Joe Morrell I thought it was all alright!

‘But no, were we 3-0 up and it was fine.

‘Probably just before half-time the corners started to get a bit wet and with the way things have gone recently you start to think: ‘God, is anything going to go for us?’

‘But the ground staff are the man of the matches for being able to get that game on and for allowing us to finish the game.

‘I think once you get to 3-0 up, it would take a very, very brave referee to call a game off here at Fratton Park. I’m not sure you would get out alive.’

Cowley understood Johnson’s actions at half time, admitting he would have done the same if he was staring defeat in the face.

‘Lee was doing his best (to get the game called off), but you can’t blame him for that either,’ he said.

‘If I’m honest, If I was in his position and 3-0 down I’d probably be asking the same questions.

‘But I thought we played the conditions on the day better than Sunderland did.

‘We’re very respectful of Sunderland, they’ve had an excellent start to the season and they’re a huge club, a huge resource with a fantastic squad, but we showed today what we’re capable of.’

Fans reacted as the Portsmouth boss speaks on the failed Sunderland bid to get game the called off at half time…

@Lukedarbyshire7: the ball managed to roll over your goal line 4 times 🎣

@mcilvaney05: Who would thought be the sunderland players around the ref trying get it called off at half time 2003 was alot worse #pompey

@bpay12: Trying to get hot food and drink for my boys and was right by dug out. Whole 25 mins the Sunderland management team were moaning and trying get it called off. Numerous occasions Danny Cowley walked over and simply said ‘Oh, Fuck Off! ‘. My man

@ryanlewis79: I love you @dancowley1

@Spmolnar1: The atrocious conditions were the same for both teams. No excuses. We were 2nd best all game, against a supposedly struggling team. We have the better players, but they have players who showed more fight/desire/determination to win the game. Move on & learn from this defeat.

@burningbeach: Very honest opinion on the performance Lee although you did your best at ht to get called off. Did love it when you threw the ball up to prove to the Lino it wouldn’t bounce and it did. Wasn’t a problem with surface water by the halfway line. Safe trip back Sunderland fans

@AndrewC_53: They beat us fair and square. Fair play to Danny Cowley for his honesty, but we are happy to let Pompey have their cup final. Bless em.

@ChrisOverthrow: Conditions first half were playable and we outplayed you. game was over at half time and then your players spent entirety of 2nd half crying at ref. going to take more than that for a ref to call game off at 3-0 as you’d expect if you were the team with the lead. rather than moaning about conditions (which were same for both sides) you should be asking your players some searching questions like why they gave up and made excuses for themselves.

@terryhack60: The rules state that calling a game off is based on wether the conditions are dangerous not wether they are playable! Given that I don’t actually recall the physio’s weren’t called on at any point I have to conclude the game had to continue 😭

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