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By ESPN Staff

Sbragia slams "unacceptable" Sunderland defending

Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia was again left to rue sloppy defending after his team slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Portsmouth which keeps them in the relegation mire.

The Black Cats could have secured their top-flight status with a win and they took the lead with a 59th-minute opener from Kenwyne Jones.

But Portsmouth scored twice inside seven minutes through John Utaka and Phil Bardsley's own goal after a dreadful gaffe from Anton Ferdinand, before an Armand Traore strike sealed victory three minutes from time.

''Anton's obviously held up his hand,'' Sbragia said on Setanta Sports 1, reflecting on the second goal. ''It's happening too often in general - we play well, we think we're sort of in charge of the game.

''We knew in the second half they'd push on to us and close us down. but we got off to a good start. Kenwyne scored and from then on we should have been a bit more confident and bossed the game.

''We kept the lead for two minutes, and that's not acceptable. The second goal was a bad mistake by Anton. He switched off. I would imagine he should have just put his foot through it and helped it on.

''From then on I thought we played reasonably well. We left ourselves open late on - we were obviously trying to go for the equaliser.''

Sunderland had their chances, but could not add to their solitary strike from Jones.

''It's disappointing, although I thought we created a few chance in the first half but it's the same old story - not clinical enough,'' said Sbragia.

''We let them off the hook. When I thought we were reasonably on top they go one up. Their first goal was obviously a bit unlucky as it's come off Grant (Leadbitter) but the second goal was the killer for us today.

''I thought we marched on. Kenwyne had a chance, Kieron (Richardson) had a chance but he went for power. Sometimes I think it'd be nice to take the chances we create.''

Sbragia was shown replays of the Pompey equaliser, when Peter Crouch's header ricocheted off Grant Leadbitter back into his own box and Utaka held off Sol Campbell to turn and rifle home his first goal of the season.

The referee appeared to blow his whistle for a foul just before the ball was struck, but then played the advantage as Utaka netted.

But Sbragia refused to criticise the decision, saying: He said: ''I didn't realise that. He's probably blown a wee bit early and plays the advantage. I've got too many other things to think about. Whether it's a mistake or not, he's given a goal. I think I'd have felt hard done by if I was Portsmouth.''

Portsmouth manager Paul Hart was pleased to see his side triumph in their last game of the season at Fratton Park.

''The first half was a bit like watching paint dry, but we injected a little bit of life in the second half,'' he said on Setanta Sports 1. ''Obviously it's been a very hard season - there's a lot of tired legs, but they pushed themselves over the line.

''Sunderland battled right to the death, there were a few good saves from our keeper.''

Hart insists he is focused only on finishing the season in as high a league position as possible rather than worrying about his position.

The academy director has been acting as interim boss since Tony Adams' sacking in February,

''It's possible. We'll see what happens,'' he said when asked if he could continue in the managerial hotseat next term.

''We're concentrating on this (the football) and we've got another game left. We really do want to finish as high as we possibly can.

''I'm contracted to this club anyway for the next two years so it's immaterial. It's a good job to have, it's a great club and I'm sure there'll be a lot of people fancying it.

''I've been employed to do this job. It was very specific - one day, one game... then it became until the end of the season and myself and my staff have really focused on that.''

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