Sunderland fans would have been forgiven for wondering what lay ahead for them this season after something of a slow start to the campaign.
Back-to-back draws against Ipswich and Oxford United meant that Sunderland were left searching for their first league win of the season as they headed into their third league clash of the new campaign.
After missing out on promotion last time around, Jack Ross’ side would have been keen to hit the ground running. That wasn’t the case, with the Black Cats lacking that little bit extra in the final third. Saturday’s win against Portsmouth would have been a huge boost to the club as they look to kick start their promotion push, with a big win against one of their rivals.
Portsmouth will share promotion ambitions as well this season and getting three points on the board against one of their fellow contenders could be the catalyst to a winning streak in League One.
It was a busy first half at the Stadium of Light, with Marcus Harness giving the visitors the lead just after 20 minutes. But it will be the response of Sunderland that will delight Ross the most, as the hosts scored twice in 12 minutes to take the lead before half time.
Jordan Willis and Chris Maguire both hit back instantly with two quick-fire goals that will be sure to lift the mood around the club. With games against Rochdale, AFC Wimbledon and Peterborough to come, the win is a timely boost.
Given the strong starts made by the likes of Lincoln and Coventry, two teams that will be looking to secure a place in the Championship, Sunderland will want to put together a string of good results to push on after a slow start.
One player who was at the heart of the performance at the Stadium of Light was Grant Leadbitter, who looked a step above those around him as he used all his experience to help Sunderland to their first league victory of the new campaign.
Players like Leadbitter will be key if Sunderland want to push on and work their way back up the Football League. When using betting apps on android/iPhone, fans can back the club, with Sunderland among the favourites to go up this season. Performances like the one over the weekend will play down any suggestions that Leadbitter may be forced into a bit-part role.
At 33 years of age, Ross could be forgiven for thinking that he would need to manage him carefully during a busy season, but performances like the one he put in against Portsmouth will make his job tough, such was his importance to the team.
Despite his positive displays, Sunderland will need to manage their key players carefully. The likes of Leadbitter and Aiden McGeady will be key during the second half of the season. Add to that the goals of Lynden Gooch, who has already found the back of the net on two occasions this season, the talent is certainly there if Sunderland can seize the opportunity.
For Sunderland, there is a general feeling surrounding the club that they simply cannot afford to miss out on promotion to the second tier again. As a club, it’s one that should not be playing League One football week in, week out but the club have to be patient as they fight their way out of the division. As a relatively young squad, they will be looking to move on and learn from last season’s play-off heartache, which will act as a valuable learning curve as they aim to go up at the second attempt.