Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Mannone Is Determined to Keep It Clean for Cats; Keeper Driven Crazy by Inability of Wearsiders to Produce Goal Shutout

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Mannone Is Determined to Keep It Clean for Cats; Keeper Driven Crazy by Inability of Wearsiders to Produce Goal Shutout

Article excerpt

Byline: James Hunter Sports Writer twitter: @JHUNTERCHRON

SUNDERLAND'S wait for a clean sheet is driving Vito Mannone crazy.

The Black Cats have managed only three shutouts all season - the joint-lowest tally in the top flight, along with relegation rivals Norwich City - all of which came under Costel Pantilimon's reign as number one, with keeper Mannone yet to keep a clean sheet in eight attempts since he was restored to the side as first choice on Boxing Day.

And with Mannone having spent more than a year in Pantilimon's shadow prior to being recalled, the former Arsenal man has to look back a further four Premier League outings stretching all the way back to September 2014 and a goalless draw against Swansea City at the Stadium of Light, for his last league shutout.

Boss Sam Allardyce has repeatedly impressed on his players the importance of keeping clean sheets, and Mannone admits it has been a major failing for the team this season.

The Italian said: "For me, I'm going crazy!

"We're desperately trying to get one [a clean sheet], but we're finding it tough to get it.

"I'm making a few saves to keep us in the games. But it's the work of the whole team, from the strikers through to me. All 11 players have to be concentrated on not giving cheap goals away."

Both Sunderland and Norwich also share the unwanted tag of having the worst defensive record in the top division this season, having each conceded 50 goals in 26 games so far.

But the Black Cats' saving grace has been their ability to score goals, which has helped them pick up four points from their last two games against Liverpool and Manchester United to bring them to within a point of safety with 12 games to go.

However, Mannone knows Big Sam is right to tell his team that they can make life much easier for themselves if they learn to tighten up at the back. …

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