Sunderland look on helpless as rivals take points

John O'Shea

John O'Shea

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FOR THE second weekend in a row, Sunderland’s players were helpless onlookers on Saturday afternoon as their relegation rivals had the chance to boost their survival hopes.

Nine days ago, results more or less went in Sunderland’s favour before the Black Cats blew that platform with defeat against West Ham.

But this Saturday, Sunderland’s predicament grew increasingly bleak.

Fulham’s win at Aston Villa sent Gus Poyet’s side back to the Premier League’s basement, yet far more concerning on Wearside was West Brom’s victory at Norwich which left Sunderland seven points adrift of safety.

Captain John O’Shea admits it has been frustrating to face the waiting game of two back-to-back Monday night fixtures.

But he knows Sunderland have to take charge of their own destiny by producing a vast improvement in their points return, regardless of how everyone else is faring.

“There’s a bit of frustration that you’re waiting and waiting for the game and everyone else plays before you,” said O’Shea.

“But we know if we can put in a performance in tonight like we have done against the teams in the top half of the table this season, we’ll give ourselves a fighting chance.

“Whoever we’re going to be playing - home or away - it’s down to ourselves now.”

If Sunderland are to inject some renewed hope into their survival campaign, they will have to end a run of 19 games, spanning 12 years, without securing victory on a Monday night.

Neither can the Black Cats boast a particularly impressive record at Spurs after just one league win at White Hart Lane since 1978.

But while Sunderland have notoriously struggled against their bottom half peers this season, Gus Poyet’s side have generally performed well when faced with the big boys and O’Shea says that has to give the visitors some hope tonight.

“We can’t look too much at the opposition, whether it’s a top four team or mid-table,” added the 32-year-old.

“But when you look at the points we’ve got this season, it indicates that we’ve got them away from home and we’ve got more points against the top half teams too.

“We need that trend to continue if we’re going to get out of this.

“It’s a game against Spurs that we know we can win if everyone has the right determination and belief, and that bit of luck also.

“That’s a lot of factors added up, but if you do things right collectively and individually, you give yourself a better chance.”