HAVING lost for the first time in League One this season, a reminder has been issued to everyone in the Sunderland squad that things will not always go to plan in the push for promotion.

The Black Cats will, most probably, lose again in the weeks and months ahead, which is why the response to such defeats will be arguably more important than the actual blows suffered – like Portsmouth’s 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light.

Phil Parkinson and co were left scratching their heads after the final whistle at the way a five match run of clean sheets, conceding just once in the league from six games, had come to an end in such a disappointing manner.

Lapses in thinking, stray passes and poor decision making all form part of the reasons behind the first loss, while Pompey also deserved credit for heading to Wearside with a plan to attack and create.

Key defender Bailey Wright is adamant lessons have been learned ahead of back-to-back away trips to Rochdale and Gillingham this week.

“We take a lot of pride in being solid defensively and not conceding, which we have done many times this season already,” said Wright. “We know there’s going to be games where we concede and we lose and unfortunately this was one of them.

“Credit to Portsmouth, they came here with a plan and executed it well. There were fine margins in the game and fine points in which the game changes. We’re not going to get too disappointed about it.

“This is football, we’ve had a good start and we just continue to keep doing all the things we’re doing that have given us success so far.”

Sunderland’s defence changed again to face Portsmouth, with Jordan Willis recalled despite suffering a bruised foot a week earlier.

It will have to change again at Rochdale tomorrow night because of the red card served out to Luke O’Nien when he brought down Ryan Williams with six minutes remaining; allowing John Marquis to convert from the spot to wrap up the points.

Tom Flanagan is likely to slot back into the back three. Wright said: “It’s a long old season and the team is going to chop and change.

“There’s going to be injuries, there’s going to be suspensions, tactical changes and that’s the beauty of having the squad we’ve got. We’ve got such a strong squad that anyone can come in and do a job.

“For me, fortunately, I’ve had a good run of games and played in the middle of the back three, but everyone is fighting for that shirt and you can’t be complacent with the squad we’ve got. We’re all going to need to be together and it’s important we’re all pulling in the right direction – and we are.”

Sunderland were on the back foot straight away against Portsmouth, unable to display the sort of confidence they have played with in recent matches.

Marcus Harness capitalised on space in the seventh minute when a quick counter-attack ended with the ball at his feet in the area courtesy of a lovely pass from Michael Jacobs.

Three minutes later Sunderland delivered a sweet riposte. Charlie Wyke was on hand in the area to side-foot low inside Craig MacGillivray’s bottom right corner after more brilliant work from Denver Hume down the left.

But Sunderland didn’t learn lessons from the first. In the 25th minute Grant Leadbitter’s attempted pass inside dropped to Harness, who rolled in Marquis behind O’Nien and he found the inside of goalkeeper Lee Burge’s far post.

Sunderland just weren’t themselves. When they improved for a period after half-time they didn’t create enough clearcut chances to test the goalkeeper.

Wright said: “It’s a cliche, but you’ve got to focus on your next game and look at the positives and build, and then look to take maximum points. The next one for us is Rochdale and we’re ready for that.

“Two points per game, it’s a good average and what we have achieved so far, but this is a tough old league. We have a good togetherness on and off the pitch and we have a lot of things that are ticking boxes.”

Parkinson accepts there will be blips this season. The challenge he faces is making sure that they occur less often than they have in previous campaigns when they have missed out on a top two spot.

“We’ve had a very good start to the season,” said Parkinson, minutes after Marquis had completed the win from 12 yards by sending Burge the wrong way.

“Unfortunately, in football, you sometimes come up against a team that is better than you over the 90 minutes.

“There were periods in the game where we were the stronger team, but we’ve got to accept it and respond in the right way.

“We’re not getting carried away. We don’t do that after victory and we certainly won’t do it after this defeat.

“But we need to make sure that the display at Rochdale is much more consistent over the 90 minutes.”

He added: “We can’t be flat because we have had a good start. There will be set-backs during the season. This is a knock for us. We need to make sure the performance is a good one from minute one until the last minute on Tuesday.”