Opinion: Are there enough goal heroes in this Sunderland side to stay up?

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson
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A challenge was laid down by Sam Allardyce to his players last week for someone to be a goal hero other than Jermain Defoe.

Well, there's a regular scorer in Sunderland's midst whose keeping the Black Cats' survival hopes alive after Patrick van Aanholt found the net for the fourth league game on the spin, albeit two of them were subsequently classified as own goals.

Van Aanholt rejuvenation has been one of the success stories of Allardyce's tenure - transformed from an error-prone liability to Sunderland's chief attacking outlet, at present anyway.

Admittedly, the Dutchman endured a torrid time (as did the rest of his team-mates) for the opening 25 minutes against Bournemouth, when he struggled to get anywhere near Junior Stanislas.

But while there is clear defensive improvement still needed in van Aanholt's game, he is one of the few players in Sunderland's ranks at present who can boast a splash of confidence going forwards.

The problem is that if van Aanholt or Defoe are not on the scoresheet, who else is going to be?

Jeremain Lens' goal in the FA Cup was his first since October. Fabio Borini has only netted consolations at Chelsea and Manchester City. Adam Johnson's sole strike was the penalty in the Wear-Tyne derby.

Does Allardyce have sufficient players in his ranks who both have the composure and quality to fire Sunderland to survival?

Just look at the impact made by Bournemouth's £10million January signing Benik Afobe.

Sunderland were so reliant on Defoe against his former club, Bournemouth, that they anxiously attempted to steer the ball towards the 33-year-old at any cost.

Far too many high balls - particularly in that utterly rank opening 25 minutes - were lumped forwards towards Defoe in the blind expectation that he could conjure something from nothing.

There were none of those clever through-balls which had been seen at Swansea.

It was hit and hope stuff. It was no wonder that Bournemouth were able to mop it up, persistently retain possession and completely control the game by outpassing Allardyce's men.

The impressive Harry Arter was able to run the show from the middle of the park.

After such an insipid performance - albeit it improved in the second half - a point is no catastrophe. At least Sunderland didn't lose, which would have left them nine points behind Bournemouth.

Allardyce's late decision to bring on Jack Rodwell, rather than Steven Fletcher or Dame N'Doye, sparked derision on the terraces, but Sunderland couldn't afford to suffer defeat in a game where they were second-best for long periods.

But with the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool coming up next, Sunderland need to be on the lookout for rabbits to emerge from hats after managing a solitary point against one of their fellow strugglers.

They need someone other than Defoe or van Aanholt to take the tag of goal hero.