GUS POYET admits his mid-season report on Sunderland is tinged with regret that the Black Cats have not taken a decisive step away from the relegation dogfight.
Sunderland find themselves in a far healthier position than 12 months ago at the halfway point of the campaign, with Poyet’s men taking 20 points from their opening 19 games and creating a four-point buffer with the bottom three.
But Poyet says Sunderland’s season so far can only be described as “OK” due to the Black Cats’ inability to convert draws into wins.
Sunderland have finished all-square 11 times – only six short of the Premier League record of 17 in a single season - with frustration in the camp that Poyet’s side have not been able to add to their tally of just three wins.
Poyet told SportMail: “We should have a healthier gap with the relegation zone.
“I like to analyse the season at the end of it.
“But halfway, realistically after the last two years, we are OK.
“I don’t think it’s more than that. I don’t want to be over-positive.
“We are OK, the players feel all right, the atmosphere is much better and more relaxed.
“We know we are close to winning two or three games in a row. In that respect, it’s great.
“But it’s another thing doing it.
“We have been looking to make sure we feel like we are progressing.
“I think the feeling inside the dressing room is that.
“There is a bit of frustration, but I think that’s natural because we know we’ve been so close to being on 24-25 points and the feeling would be totally different.
“But that’s the reality of the league and that’s why it’s been so difficult in the last few years.”
Poyet had targeted two wins from the final four games of 2014.
Yet, after the ecstasy of victory in the Tyne-Wear derby, Sunderland have fluffed their lines over the last two matches by their failure to triumph against bottom half pair Hull and Aston Villa.
A point at Villa Park took Sunderland to the 20-point milestone.
But prior to tomorrow’s trip to reigning champions Manchester City, Poyet admits he still feels irritated by the manner of defeat to Hull and the failure to win against 10-man Villa.
“We’ve had a number of 0-0 draws, but the one that hurt me the most was definitely Villa,” he added.
“That was the chance to take the three points that we needed.
“I’ve watched and analysed the game against Hull again, and if we got to half-time 2-1 up, no-one could have complained.
“They had a couple of shots from long distance, but we had one cleared off the line, two penalties turned down, three or four blocks. Everything was one way.
“The second half started badly and the goal changed the game.
“After they scored, there was a bit of tension and it was too hurried. We went too long, too quick.
“That’s the thing I want us to achieve which we haven’t done yet – the ability to cope whether we are winning or losing, whether home or away.”