Chris Young: Sunderland cannot afford defeats like West Ham at this stage

Jan Kirchhoff

Jan Kirchhoff

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If this game had taken place at the end of August, there would have been a pretty positive mood around the place.

Sunderland matched a top six side on their own turf, where there were zero signs of tangible difference between the two teams.

Other than a Patrick van Aanholt clanger, Sunderland defended resiliently and efficiently, with Hammers dangerman Dimitri Payet not a factor whatsoever.

Jan Kirchhoff thrived in the middle of the park; winning the 50-50 balls and regaining possession high up the pitch.

And while Jack Rodwell spurned a couple of glorious opportunities, at least the £10million man added an attacking dimension to the midfield after offering more balance to the side when he replaced Lee Cattermole.

But it's NOT August.

Mitigating factors count for nothing. Results are Sunderland's sole currency when their Premier League status hangs by a thread.

And at the start of a three game week where Sam Allardyce believes Sunderland have to register at least a four point haul, then this could be a particularly costly defeat.

The quantity of missed chances at Upton Park became slightly obscene, as Jermain Defoe and Rodwell (twice) spurned golden opportunities which simply cannot afford to be squandered when points are so precious.

As each one went begging, they became even more frustrating than the Hammers opener when van Aanholt's botched clearance and block saw Michail Antonio net a bizarre goal out of nothing.

There were enough chances to win the game, let alone get a share of the spoils.

It was startlingly reminiscent of the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City earlier in the month.

Allardyce speculated afterwards that it's a flaw in Sunderland's armour that they have games when they frustratingly lack the potency to put the ball in the net.

But it's perhaps simply a damning characteristic of a side at the wrong end of the table.

Teams in the relegation zone find a way to lose games when they merit one or three points.

Sunderland cannot afford that pattern to continue against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.

The inability to earn something for their efforts in their final trip to Upton Park has made that visit of Alan Pardew's side another of those do-or-die evenings for Sunderland.