Sunderland’s survival hopes rest on the goalscoring boots of Jermain Defoe, believes Sam Allardyce.
The 33-year-old has already netted 10 goals this season and if the Black Cats are to extend their stay in the top flight then Defoe’s impact will prove crucial.
He’s going to be our man that wins a lot of games for usSam Allardyce
That’s the view of Allardyce, who is gearing his side up for a nail-biting finale to the Premier League campaign.
At the forefront of his mind is the need for Sunderland to start keeping clean sheets - their current run of 12 games without one is the longest in the division.
But if the defence - strengthened by the arrival of Lamine Kone - can do their job, then Allardyce is confident Defoe can prove the difference.
“As long as the other lads do their jobs for him and keep clean sheets, he’s going to be our man that wins a lot of games for us,” said Allardyce.
“We want the [goals] in one’s, rather than two in one and three in another, if possible.
“We want them nicely spread out if we can.
“That way, he gets us a goal to give us a win.
“There’s not too often between now and the end of the season, that two or more goals are going to come from us, let’s face it.
“That’s been pretty difficult to come by this season.
“The 1-0 wins are going to be the important side of our game now.
“If we can score more than that, we’ll always try to do that.
“But for me, the battle is on and we’ve got to win the battle.
“If we win the battle, then at the end of the season, we might have won the war,” added Allardyce, who is currently in Dubai with the first team squad taking advantage of a warm-weather training break.
Defoe is the third-highest scoring Englishman in the Premier League, with top scorer Jamie Vardy leading the way with 19 goals and Harry Kane second with 16.
His latest goal was the vital late equaliser against Liverpool recently.
Survival hopes have been raised in recent weeks after second-bottom Sunderland closed the gap to safety to a single point.
The morale-boosting point gained at Anfield and three over Manchester United has also helped bring AFC Bournemouth and Swansea City, who had threatened to pull away from danger, back into the relegation dogfight.
But with just 12 games remaining, the Black Cats’ place at the top table remains very much in doubt.
* Sunderland’s Under-21 match against Liverpool has been brought forward and will now be played this Sunday, February 21, at Chester FC’s Lookers Vauxhall Stadium.
The game, originally scheduled for the following day, will kick off at noon.
Andy Welsh’s side, who sit just two points behind tabletoppers Manchester United, will be looking for back-to-back wins after Mikael Mandron’s double guided the young Black Cats to a 3-2 win over Middlesbrough on Monday night..