David Moyes has admitted he fears Sunderland’s implosion against Crystal Palace earlier in the season could cost his side come the end of the season.
The Scot has called on his players to put that defeat right and give their survival prospects a major shot in the arm.
The Eagles’ win over Bournemouth in midweek lifted them to three points clear of the Black Cats, Sam Allardyce’s side now just two points adrift of Swansea City and safety.
That picture would look very different had Sunderland held on to a precious two goal lead all the way back in September.
A brace from Jermain Defoe put the strugglers 2-0 up after an hour but Joe Ledley, James McArthur and Christian Benteke settled the contest.
Moyes said: “The Crystal Palace defeat here was a tough one, if you changed the points over, took the points away from them and gave them to us, it’d be completely different. Every game matters but we were 2-0 up and lost, which was a nightmare for us. I hope it’s not something we look back at the end of the season and regret, but we’ve got a chance to go and put it right, hopefully we can do that.”
The scars of that defeat took a while to heal, Sunderland not winning a game this season until November. They won three out of four but poor form has returned and they are again left in a perilous situation.
Moyes has taken great encouragement from Sunderland’s improved display against Tottenham Hotspur, a performance of much improved discipline and organisation yielding what could yet prove to a precious point.
The Sunderland boss has warned his side that Crystal Palace will offer a very different threat, and has picked out September’s match-winner Christian Benteke as a danger man.
The target man has returned to form and scored the second goal in the Eagles win at Dean Court.
Moyes said: “We keep going but we need to pick up points, we picked up a good point against Tottenham, there were a lot of good things in the game. Crystal Palace will be completely different, they’ve got Benteke who they can hit with the ball, it’s not the way Tottenham play but they can get the ball to him, can get crosses in the box. It’ll be a different type of game for us.”
Moyes has also paid warm tribute to Allardyce, who kept Sunderland from the drop last season.
There are signs of his work bearing fruit at Selhurst Park, keeping their first clean sheet in the league since December 3.
The Sunderland boss says that will be as key to his Sunderland side this year as it was last.
He said: “If you look at the best teams in the league, they tend to have the best defences. It’s great to have a good goal scorer, everybody needs that, but you also need defenders who keep them out at the other end, or the great goalscorers goals don’t count. That’s where we’ve not been as strong as I’d like.
“Sam did a great job for Sunderland and deserves all the credit for how he helped keep the team up last year under difficult circumstances.
“He got a move away to a job he was really interested in, it probably took a little bit longer for Sunderland to get prepared for the season.
“You know Sam, he’s very experienced, he’s worked his way up the ladder and he’s good at his job, that’s why Crystal Palace took him, they know he can improve them.”