Football: Confident Sunderland

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The Independent Online
Sunderland. .4

Portsmouth. .1

WITH the old ground once again vibrating to the Roker roar, Sunderland boosted both their own chances of First Division survival and West Ham's hopes of a reserved seat on the Premier League gravy train thanks to an impressive display of attacking football against a Portsmouth side who had two players sent off.

The mathematics are still far from elementary, but one thing is clear. If the Hammers can pull off victory at Swindon this afternoon they will draw level on points with Pompey and automatic promotion will all hang on the final games next weekend.

Although Sunderland moved up three places into 18th position, events elsewhere did not help their cause. In view of the scramble developing at the bottom they still require three points from two tricky away games at Tranmere and Notts County to ensure absolute safety.

It had all looked so promising for the visitors in the first half- hour. Portsmouth, who have sampled only one season of top-flight football since 1959, knocked the ball around with the assurance that comes from a run of 11 victories and a draw. But Sunderland, having survived two close calls from Guy Whittingham, snapped away at their heels and took the lead dramatically in the 36th minute.

Alan Knight fisted out Gary Owers' deep cross straight to Gordon Armstrong whose goal-bound lob was also palmed away by Guy Butters. Alas, Butters is a full- back and he was duly sent off before Don Goodman, to the chagrin of Portsmouth's 6,000 fans, fired home the penalty right under their noses.

Reduced to 10 men, Pompey pulled Bjorn Kristensen back into defence only to find themselves two down five minutes after the break, the consequence of a magical through ball to the bustling Goodman by Peter Davenport. Sunderland's striker edged past Kit Symons and was impeded as he bore in on goal. This time Goodman sent Knight the other way for his 17th of the season.

Portsmouth were now all at sea and Martin Gray got a third five minutes later, finishing off another incisive Davenport pass. As demoralisation set in, Paul Walsh was sent off for elbowing Martin Gray and Pompey's misery was compounded by Armstrong who grabbed a fourth. Whittingham's goal four minutes from time was no consolation.

Sunderland: T Norman; Martin Gray, Michael Gray, G Owers, T Butcher, G Bennett (J Colquhoun, 65 min), S Cunnington (L Howey, 89 min), D Goodman, P Davenport, B Atkinson, G Armstrong. Player-Manager: T Butcher.

Portsmouth: A Knight; A Awford, G Butters, A McLoughlin, K Symons, R Daniel, W Neill (G Lawrence, 71 min), M Chamberlain, P Walsh, G Whittingham, B Kristensen (W Aspinall, 77 min). Manager: J Smith.

Referee: P Wright (Northwich).

Goals: Goodman pen (1-0, 36 min); Goodman pen (2-0, 50 min); Martin Gray (3-0, 55 min); Armstrong (4-0, 76 min); Whittingham (4-1, 86 min).