Johnson: Time is running out
Published 01/04/2014 | 15:52
Adam Johnson admits time is running out fast if Sunderland are to spare themselves from another relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
The Black Cats remain four points adrift of safety as a result of Monday night's 2-1 home defeat to West Ham, and they now have just eight games remaining from which to secure their top-flight status.
History would suggest they need to win at least four of those matches if they are to boost their points total - which currently stands at 25 - to escape, and with their first 30 fixtures having yielded only six wins, that looks a tall order.
Johnson said: "It's another game down. We keep saying, 'This is the game, this is the game' but time is running out now.
"The games are running out and we have got some tough ones coming up. We have to capitalise on the games at home, which we haven't done all season.
"We have got four home games left and I think if we win all four, we have got a chance.
"There are still eight games and points to play for. We have just got to stick together and keep trying to do the right things.
"We can't get cut adrift because it's difficult then. Any of the games away from home against the top six are difficult, but we tend to perform better against those top teams."
Sunderland's plight looks stark from every angle.
Three of their last four home games look winnable on paper at least - their next outing on Wearside brings Everton to the north east with Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea to follow - but they have managed to take three points on home turf only once in nine attempts in the league.
Perhaps more worryingly, only one of their six wins to date has come against a team currently occupying a place in the bottom half of the table, a 4-1 victory at Fulham on January 11.
That is a situation they hoped to remedy as the Hammers headed north, but they found themselves on the back foot within nine minutes, and in predictable fashion.
Former Newcastle striker Andy Carroll had never scored against the Black Cats before, but his bullet header from a Mark Noble corner was simply too hot to handle for goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
The home side might have been back in it before the break when another Magpies old boy, Kevin Nolan, appeared to handle inside the penalty area, but referee Howard Webb did not spot the offence.
Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet said: "The penalty, massive - that could be the difference between staying up or going down."
Poyet's woes increased within five minutes of the restart when Mohamed Diame beat Mannone from the edge of the penalty area with a deflected effort, and although Johnson reduced the deficit with 25 minutes remaining, there was no way back despite a late flurry.
Johnson said: "We go into these games knowing they are going to be difficult, and maybe we just try too hard.
"We should have definitely got something out of the game after the second half. But it wasn't meant to be again. It's the same old story, isn't it?
"In the second half, we were definitely the better team. But you need to put those chances away."
For Carroll, a man-of-the-match performance provided a welcome antidote to an injury-plagued campaign.
The 25-year-old told West Ham's official website: "It's the first goal (I've scored against Sunderland).
"I've tried my hardest every time I've played against them, but it's the first one I've got against them and obviously I'm over the moon that we have got the three points as well."