Saturday 21 April 2018

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce focusing on beating Leicester after West Brom draw

Sam Allardyce endured a frustrating afternoon on the Sunderland bench against West Brom
Sam Allardyce endured a frustrating afternoon on the Sunderland bench against West Brom

Sam Allardyce has set Sunderland the target of derailing Leicester's Barclays Premier League title charge in order to rekindle their hopes of avoiding the drop.

The Foxes head for the Stadium of Light next Sunday with their hosts sitting four points adrift of safety at the foot of the table after Saturday's 0-0 home draw with West Brom.

Allardyce was left hugely frustrated after his side kept a first clean sheet in 18 attempts in all competitions, but failed to take any of the plethora of chances they created and had to settle for a fourth straight draw.

Asked how he saw the table now, he said: "Well, we have got to beat Leicester next week and then we have got Norwich to come, so the closer we get points-wise to Norwich, the more and bigger the game it's going to be.

"We can't afford to be any further away. We have a game in hand - which is Everton here - but that doesn't happen until the last week of the season and we don't want to be too far away from Norwich when we play them, so we have got to try to beat Leicester now."

Sunderland, who have now won just once in 10 league games, might have collected the victory they so desperately need had leading scorer Jermain Defoe had his shooting boots - or more accurately, his head - on. Or had Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster not been in such fine form.

Foster made fine saves from Lee Cattermole and Jan Kirchhoff, two from Fabio Borini and at the death, kept out Defoe's 89th-minute strike with his foot on a day when another priceless two points went begging.

Allardyce, who saw a stoppage-time strike from substitute Dame N'Doye correctly ruled out for offside, said: "I don't know what else we can do, I don't know what I can say. We have had, I think without any question, the best performance for 90 minutes I have had since I have been here.

"Unfortunately there was a guy in the goal who stopped us scoring two or three goals today, and when we finally thought the gods were looking upon us to score one, we were offside, so it's been a hugely frustrating afternoon."

Opposite number Tony Pulis was delighted with a hard-earned draw which took the Baggies to 40 points for the season.

He said: "Pleased? We are doing somersaults. To get to those points is first class for us because we have got some tough games - we go to Manchester City, we got to Arsenal, we go to Tottenham - so we need to get the points in the bag.

"It's been such an unusual season this year. When you look below and you look at teams like Aston Villa, Newcastle, Sunderland, nobody should ever, ever, especially at our football club - well, any football club - take anything for granted in this league. It's the hardest league and the toughest league in the world.

"We had 39 points - most probably that is safety, and they (the players) most probably would have thought that that was safety.

"But they have come here and they have really, really made it difficult, and I am pleased for them and I am pleased for the football club that we haven't come here and just been walked over."

Pulis was indebted to Foster, but not surprised by his contribution.

He said: "Ben has been like that since he came back. People forget that we didn't have him for six months this season. He is a top goalkeeper, a top lad."

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