Portsmouth’s star striker John Marquis has revealed how Kenny Jackett’s side identified a major flaw in Phil Parkinson’s tactics that allowed the south coast outfit to exploit Sunderland on Saturday.
The Fratton Park natives allowed Sunderland to take control of proceedings with just a 43% share of possession, but restricted their hosts to a measly single shot on target coming through Charlie Wyke’s initial equaliser in the 10th-minute, per SofaScore.
Portsmouth had opened the scoring through Marcus Harness three minutes prior and continued to create chances throughout the League One clash, with Jackett’s men hitting six further shots on target from 11 strikes.
Marquis took much of the acclaim at the Stadium of Light with goals either side of half-time to secure a 3-1 win over the 10-men Sunderland following Luke O’Nien’s 84th-minute red card, moving Portsmouth above the Black Cats in the table on goal difference.
Marquis has now revealed how he, Jackett and the Portsmouth squad had analysed Sunderland’s unbeaten start to the campaign to deal Parkinson his first loss of the season, with the south coast side able to conjure together a game plan the striker believes was executed to perfection on Saturday.
“We had a gameplan and we stuck to it,” Marquis told the Portsmouth News. “We didn’t want to come here and change the shape we’ve been playing lately and try to match them up, as other teams have done when here this season.
“I’d say it was our best performance of the season. Today, in the second-half, we were very disciplined, didn’t get pulled out of our shape. To come to a place like Sunderland to get three points makes the drive home much sweeter.
“We knew we could counter-attack them, they are very expansive, they are very open at times when they lose the ball, so we’ve been working on counter-attacking quickly and getting our shots.
“We did that today and then won the penalty with a great run behind from Ryan Williams and I was able to step up and put it away.”
Marquis’ comments must prick the ears of Parkinson and the Sunderland first-team ahead of facing Rochdale on Tuesday night, as the Portsmouth star has pinpointed a major flaw in the Black Cats’ tactics that could carry dire consequences over the remainder of the season.
Other teams will now look to allow Sunderland a greater share of the possession if they, too, feel it will leave space in behind that can be exploited, while trying to shut up shop in front of their goal to force the Stadium of Light natives into trying the spectacular to score.
None of Sunderland’s eight goals in League One thus far this term have come from counter-attacking moves carried out by the North East outfit, who have fired home five from open play, two from the penalty spot and been gifted one own goal, per WhoScored.
Parkinson’s side have also averaged a lower share of possession (52.1%) per game than they registered against Portsmouth (57%), showing how Jackett was happy to concede the ball to the hosts in the belief it would create spaces where his players could strike.
Sunderland’s next opponents, Rochdale, may also look to explore this route, having averaged just 47.2% of the ball in their opening eight third-tier fixtures, with which they have created 10.9 shots per game for seven goals.