Poyet reveals secret of his plans
Manager Gus Poyet revealed he deployed a calculated formula to aid struggling Sunderland's search for goals on their travels and it almost paid off at Aston Villa.
In stark contrast to the Black Cats' home form since taking charge two months ago, Poyet's three away Barclays Premier League matches had seen three defeats, three red cards, three own goals and no goals scored prior to Saturday's trip to the Midlands.
In order to try and reverse that sorry run, the Uruguayan opted to start with every player who has found the net for Sunderland in the league this season - recalling Fabio Borini and Craig Gardner to play alongside Steven Fletcher, Emanuele Giaccherini and Phil Bardsley.
It almost worked as a much-improved Sunderland claimed only their second away point of the season courtesy of a goalless draw at Villa Park, climbing off the foot of the table in the process.
And it could have been all three points as Borini saw his glancing header rebound off the crossbar, Giaccherini contributed a worthy contender for miss of the season from a mere four yards while Gardner had an effort ruled out for offside.
"I want to tell you a secret about this game," Poyet said.
"I played every single player who has scored for us this season in the Premier League, every single one.
"If you think about who has scored for Sunderland in previous games - Fletcher, Borini, Giaccherini, Gardner, Bardsley - the rest, nobody has scored. Every single one who has scored at least one goal was on the pitch.
"So we are looking for goals, I can promise you that.
"The formation maybe surprised a few but there was a reason behind it, there's always a reason, right or wrong, and it nearly worked."
Giaccherini will not want to see his miss again.
Having been found in plenty of space unmarked inside the six-yard box from Bardsley's header, the summer signing from Juventus somehow put the ball over the crossbar.
And Poyet revealed the Italian was apologetic to his team-mates afterwards.
"He's so sad, he hasn't stopped thinking about it and saying sorry," he said. "But it's football, things happen for a reason sometimes.
"The main thing is to perform and for us, without a doubt, it was our best performance away from home."
While Sunderland have struggled on their travels, Villa have been unable to impress in front of their own support.
Saturday's stalemate ensured they have now won just two of their seven league matches at Villa Park this term, losing on four occasions. They have picked up more points from less games on the road.
In total they have won just 11 of their previous 45 league matches on home soil while the club's last back-to-back home wins came in August 2010.
And following a below-par display against Sunderland, manager Paul Lambert was unable to identify exactly why that was the case.
"It's a hard one to put your finger on," Lambert said.
"We don't change anything, we try to set our stall out to play the same way (home and away).
"I'm not one of those who says we'll sit and defend, we try to win the game.
"We've just got to come through that. The only difference is the majority of the crowd are on your side here."