DEFENDER Tom Flanagan admits Sunderland cannot repeat their horror show at Portsmouth.

The centre-back saw his side let in four goals without reply, in atrocious conditions at Fratton Park.

The game turned into farce at times due to standing water in the corners

But the weather could not hide an awful Black Cats performance, where they were second best throughout.

It was a far cry from recent showings, and a run of form that saw seven wins from the last ten.

Sunderland now sit in second place after Wigan defeated Gillingham at Priestfield.

Flanagan, named in the Northern Ireland squad for their World Cup qualifiers, was struggling to hide his frustration.

But he knew his side could not put on such a poor showing too often.

He said “Maybe you can say it was an off day. But if you want to get to where you want to get to as a team and a player there are no off days.

“Today is a day that is alongside only one other game that I look at in a Sunderland shirt, where I wish it could be deleted, and that would be Coventry at home.

“This has got the feel of it. A centre forward can play badly, or a right winger or central midfielder can have a bad game.

“When you’re at the back, and you’ve had a bad game as a group – or sometimes even when you don’t have a bad game – to concede four goals everyone’s eyes are on you.

“You bear the brunt, and that’s the nature of the beast. The manager had some choice words and you’ve got to take it on the chin.

“We’ve let ourselves down today, and we’ve let the supporters down. It’s infuriating and you try not to lose your temper and do something stupid.”

Flanagan was also clearly bemused at having to play the full game in the conditions.

He added “I’ve got to be honest, it was bad that people wanted the game off. But there were times when it was farcical.

“The third goal four players ran past the ball. It’s a terrible goal to give away, but the ball is standing still – yet the referee is saying the ball is still moving.

“I don’t really understand it. The middle of the pitch was absolutely fine, so there’s nothing that wasn’t completely waterlogged.

“But there were times that it was comical – the referee isn’t going to call it off with all those fans, he’s not brave enough to do that.

“We all played on it, all twenty-two of us. They dealt with it better.”

The four-goal thumping was the heaviest Sunderland loss since Cardiff in January 2018.

With Leon Dajaku, Dennis Cirkin, and Elliott Embleton coming in, pre-game optimism was high.

Their hosts, who had failed to win in eight games in all competitions before Saturday, were unchanged for the fourth game running.

It was Portsmouth who settled quickest in the pouring rain, that was already having an effect on the contest.

It was no surprise that the hosts took the lead after nineteen minutes. Lee Brown delivered a ball from the flank to find Ronan Curtis in the area.

Their one-two was to find Marcus Harness, whose one-hundreth appearance for Portsmouth was marked with a low shot past Thorben Hoffmann.

The goal appeared to wake Sunderland up, and Luke O’Nein fired a free kick just over the crossbar on 23 minutes.

However, the tie got ever more tricky ten minutes later. O’Nein found himself robbed by Curtis, who crossed into the box for John Marquis.

His backheel was directed into the path of Brown, who was able to finish.

It was hard to argue with Sunderland being two goals down, as they struggled against a lively Portsmouth side.

The half ended in the worst way possible, when Marquis flicked on a free kick past Hoffmann to make it the fatal third goal.

Half time was greeted with the rare sound of boos from the travelling 2110 supporters.

Lee Johnson and Sunderland players were questioning referee Ben Toner about the playability of the pitch.

With ground staff removing significant amounts of water in the break, the second half started with Callum Doyle replacing Emberton.

Although a comeback looked bleak, it was properly extinguished after the hour mark.

A flat-footed Sunderland defence allowed Marquis in unmarked, but his header was saved by Hoffmann.

The ball ran loose though, and the Portsmouth forward tapped in to finish an awful day on the south coast.

While the conditions continued to worsen, with the ball at times simply stopping in the water, it could not hide a wretched performance.

A chance at redemption in the league must wait due to Oxford this Saturday being postponed.

However, a trip to Lincoln in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday is likely to see some fringe players featuring.