Monday 18 December 2017

Sam Allardyce might 'start praying' as Sunderland slip four points from safety

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was left frustrated by West Brom keeper Ben Foster
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was left frustrated by West Brom keeper Ben Foster

Sam Allardyce has admitted he may need to seek divine intervention after seeing Sunderland pass up the opportunity to ease their relegation fears.

The Black Cats did everything but score as they were held to a 0-0 draw by West Brom at the Stadium of Light on a day when their failure to find the back of the net proved costly with Norwich's victory over Newcastle casting them four points adrift of safety with just seven games remaining.

A first clean sheet in 18 attempts in all competitions provided Allardyce with some consolation, but he knows time is running out fast with Barclays Premier League leaders Leicester due on Wearside next weekend.

He said: "I think I need to go back to church and start praying or something like that. I'm not quite sure what I need to do because I can't ever imagine in my long career dominating a game for so long, creating so many chances and actually not winning it.

"It's a cruel blow on the basis of the position we are in and the such desperate need that we are in for points, and tomorrow when we wake up with will feel so much more dejected on the basis yes, we played outstandingly well, yes, it was the best performance I've had since I've been here, but it was only one point again and not three and Norwich get that little bit further away from us.

"Pressure ever mounts. We look very good at dealing with the pressure at the moment, so I just hope we can carry on doing that and I hope we can turn great performances into victories very shortly. I believe we can."

But for Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster, who produced five excellent saves to deny Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchhoff, Fabio Borini twice and, at the death with his boot, Jermain Defoe, Sunderland might have won comfortably.

Even leading scorer Defoe, as at Newcastle in the previous game, was unable to make the most of the chances which came his way while substitute Dame N'Doye saw a late strike correctly ruled out for offside.

Allardyce said: "I hope that's not going to be our big worry in the next seven games, where we continue to play like this and create that many chances and don't convert them.

"But I do feel sorry for them because it had to be four or five outstanding saves by Foster, not just one or two, it was four or five or six."

The points took West Brom to 40 for the season on a day when manager Tony Pulis was able to blood teenager Jonathan Leko as a late substitute.

Pulis said: "The academy has got some really talented players. The problem is the players at West Brom have not been farmed out and allowed to go and play either non-league football or league football lower down, and for Jon to play today having come out of under-21 football, under-18 football, it's too big a jump.

"We have to loan our players out. It's the best club I have been at in respect of quality of talent, but it's not good having that quality of talent if it's not tested in correct places.

"We have got to harden these (players) up and make sure that they're resilient enough and that they understand they are not just playing for themselves, they are playing for the team, they are playing for the supporters and they are paying for the person upstairs who is paying their wages.

"They need to get that. It's a massive, massive part of development and our players in the academy have to have that."

Press Association

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