Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Cats Real Villains of This Sad Piece

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Cats Real Villains of This Sad Piece

Article excerpt

Byline: James Hunter's

Sunderland ............... 0 Aston Villa ................ 2 IF high-flying Aston Villa are a team in form, Sunderland are a team bang out of it.

The Villains' win on Wearside lifted them up to third in the table but, while Sunderland remain 10th, they are clinging on to their place in the top half by their fingernails - or on goal difference, at any rate.

A glance at the form table, which measures performance over the last six games, makes for uncomfortable reading.

Sunderland are next-to-bottom of that particular pile after picking up just four points - a meagre return shared only by on-the-slide relegation candidates West Ham.

Equally alarmingly, the Wearsiders have notched just two goals in that period, both from the boot of pounds 10m-man Darren Bent.

Boss Steve Bruce admits the Black Cats' slump is a concern, but says there is no miracle cure - just old-fashioned hard work.

He said: "We have had a poor run - there is no disguising that.

"There have been a few factors behind that, but we just have to get out of it.

"We have struggled with injuries and suspensions, and with Lady Luck.

"The one thing you need in the Premier League is to work hard, stick together, stick at it and get out of it - it is that simple.

"We are in the Premier League and it is times like now when managers have to earn their corn."

Sunderland's early-season success was built on their home form, with results on the road continuing to elude them.

While Villa have joined Chelsea to become only the second side to beat the Black Cats on home soil in the league so far this term, a worrying chink has developed in their armour even at the Stadium of Light.

A soft injury-time equaliser denied them a win against Portsmouth at the weekend, and it was another silly goal which set them on the road to defeat against Villa. A sloppy pass from left-back George McCartney gave the ball away to Stilyan Petrov.

He found impressive ex-Newcastle winger James Milner who set up Emile Heskey - who played under Bruce at both Birmingham and Wigan - to score the opener midway through the first half. …

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