Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Poom Makes out His Case for the Defence

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Poom Makes out His Case for the Defence

Article excerpt

Byline: By Simon Rushworth

Mart Poom is confident Sunderland are back on course in their bid to eclipse last season's top-three finish following the club's sluggish start to the Championship campaign.

But as the Black Cats prepare to face fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United tonight, in what promises to be one of the Football League's fixtures of the season, the Estonian international is under no illusions that another nail-biting nine months lie ahead.

Poom believes it is still impossible to identify this season's title winners with as many as eight leading clubs jostling for two automatic promotion berths.

"Leeds is a huge game," admitted a player who brought the Black Cats' season to life 12 months ago this week with a dramatic headed equaliser against former club Derby.

"It used to be one of the big games in the Premiership and both clubs are determined to get back there.

"At Sunderland, we've been moving in the right direction during the last few weeks. It's early days but we're beginning to see some positive signs.

"Our main target is still to finish in an automatic promotion place.

"There are a lot of teams with the same ambition. The season is only a few games old but a good result at Elland Road would make a few people sit up and take notice.

"We know it's a high profile fixture and it's a chance to lay down a marker."

Sunderland will move to within two points of early-season pace-setters Wigan Athletic with a fourth successive league win and Poom sees Paul Jewell's unfashionable team as the club to catch.

"Wigan must be one of the favourites but after that there must be another eight teams in with a chance of making the top two," he added.

"It's not like the Premiership where there is the big two or three at the top. The Championship is a much tighter league altogether and it's more difficult to break away."

Poom cannot put his finger on why Sunderland were so unconvincing at the outset of Mick McCarthy's second full season at the helm. However, the experienced goalkeeper agrees the contribution of fledgling central defensive partnership Steve Caldwell and Gary Breen has laid the foundation for a convincing return to form. …

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