Survival Hopes Dwindle for Poyet’s Sunderland After Norwich Blank

Two games shy of the halfway point of this season, Sunderland’s Premier League obituaries are already being prepared.

Failure to score against a decidedly average Norwich City in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light leaves the Black Cats four points shy of 17th placed West Ham, another team they recently drew a blank against.

Was the performance against the Canaries that bad? Not really. Chances were created and there were some nice touches but ultimately the painful lack of cutting edge in the final third was laid bare.

Jozy Altidore and Ki Sung-Yeung were both guilty of failing to test City keeper John Ruddy when they had the chance, then Ki lofted over after Ruddy was away from goal when the bright Fabio Borini nipped the ball away from him.

Wes Brown, red carded by referee Martin Atkinson in injury time, also went close when his header hit the post.

Sebastian Larsson and full-back Ondrej Celustka were wasteful all afternoon, symptomatic of the frgaile confidence and lack of ability which has been displayed so often this campaign.

Bright sparks included the continuing good form of Lee Cattermole and Phil Bardsley but this was a game where attacking players such as Altidore, Emmanuel Giaccherini and substitutes Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson needed to produce the goods. They didn’t.

The inability to build on a good result reared its head once again and while the home supporters roared their team on, there was always a feeling that this would be another two points dropped.

This Sunderland side are not as bad as the ones which recorded then record-low totals of 19 and then 15 points, and they should pass records comfortably, but equally they are beginning to look too far adrift to maintain a serious bid for safety. Another nine wins from their remaining 21 matches is looking like being the minimum amount required to beat the drop.

The bigger picture of course is that the Wearsiders are now reaping what they sow for being run so badly over the past two and a half years in particular.

Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill and Paolo Di Canio as managers let the club down and even though all were sacked at the right time it is arguable that the lasting effects are still being felt by virtue of the fact that most players from all three reigns remain.

Still, Gus Poyet and his staff have managed to impose a patient, passing style on this team already and with the January transfer window less than a fortnight away, some welcome activity with players coming in and others being moved on could help to get points on the board.

The irony is that from looking at the fixtures left, Sunderland realistically have enough winnable games to stay in the division. But when they’ve only recorded two victories all season in the Premier League, it will be in hope, rather than expectation.

Ominously, Poyet said following the game about his side’s chances of surviving the drop: “I’m realistic. Time is running out.”

For Sunderland supporters, it really is good riddance to 2013.


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