Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Cats' 22 for Supporters When It Comes to United

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

'Cats' 22 for Supporters When It Comes to United

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner @StuRayner

Stuart Rayner SAM'S CLEAN-SHEET PARANOIA WORRY SAM Allardyce has scaled back his demand for clean sheets to avoid making his players 'paranoid' about their defensive difficulties.

The Black Cats boss has been frustrated at his side's inability to keep shutouts, with 17 games having passed in all competitions since Sunderland last completed 90 minutes without conceding.

They have managed only three clean sheets in the league all season - the lowest total in the top flight - which has hampered their fight for survival.

Allardyce is continuing to emphasise defensive drills in training in a bid to cure the problem, but says he does not want the issue to become a major mental hurdle for his players to overcome.

"It (keeping clean sheets) would be the foundation, but we don't do it very well and that's been very disappointing for me as the coach," he said. "From a coaching perspective, the players have not kept the clean sheets that they should have achieved.

"It doesn't stop me from continuing to work on it on the training ground, but perhaps I haven't mentioned it so much because you can make people a bit paranoid if you keep going on about it.

"But we've been working on it, and we were doing so again on the training ground yesterday.

"In the end, I hope we see enough clean sheets in the final eight games to help us achieve the wins that we need."

Sunderland have had no problem scoring goals, with their tally of 36 in 30 games making them the 12th highest scorers in the Premier League.

But it is their defensive shortcomings that have held them back, when they could have been well on the way to safety had they held out for another minute at Southampton and for eight minutes in the Tyne-Wear derby at Newcastle United, only for late equalisers to cost them four points in those two games.

Allardyce said: "We can certainly score a goal, but the way things are at the moment we need two goals to win a game. We should have got those two goals at Newcastle, there's no doubt about that. We should have seen them off before they got their goal, so on the day it was very disappointing not to SUNDERLAND fans will tomorrow experience a feeling they might not be all that comfortable with: they probably have to hope Newcastle United do not lose.

It is getting to that time of year, when tribal enmities occasionally have to be put on hold and bitter rivals briefly become friends. Only briefly, but it will still not be very pleasant while it lasts.

In a ChronicleLive poll conducted last night, more than half of the respondents agreed a United win against Norwich tomorrow would be the best result for the Black Cats.

Technically, Sunderland's fate is in their own hands. The league table shows that if they win their last eight games, or even if they draw one of them, they will stay in the Premier League. …

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