ROCK-BOTTOM Sunderland face four decisive games in the battle to save their Premier League status.
That’s the realisation in the Black Cats camp after Saturday’s defeat to Spurs left Sunderland rooted to the foot of the table, while relegation rivals Crystal Palace, Fulham, Norwich and Stoke all triumphed.
Sunderland face three of the bottom seven – West Ham, Norwich and Cardiff – before the end of 2013, starting with next Saturday’s trip to Upton Park.
Failure to record a decent haul from those games, coupled with Boxing Day’s trip to Everton, could prove fatal for Gus Poyet’s side, who remain five points adrift of safety.
Poyet, who has targeted eight more points before the end of the calendar year, said: “The next four games are massive, absolutely massive. We need men on the pitch.”
And defender Phil Bardsley has echoed the words of the Sunderland head coach.
Bardsley said: “I’m not too fussed about anyone else, even though it doesn’t help (if they are winning).
“We’ve got to concentrate on ourselves and we’ve got to start winning games.
“These next four games before the end of the year are massive.”
“We’ve got to start picking points up and we’ve got some games coming up where we’ll hope to take points from.
“It’s up to us to do that.
“We’ve got to find a way to win football matches like we did against Newcastle and Man City.
“We need to find a way to do it and we have to do it quickly.”
Sunderland again proved to be the architects of their own downfall on Saturday after taking the lead through Adam Johnson’s first Premier League goal of the campaign.
As against Chelsea three days earlier, Sunderland immediately conceded an equaliser when Spurs midfielder Paulinho got to the ball ahead of Bardsley and then fell behind early in the second half when John O’Shea deflected the ball past Vito Mannone - the fifth own goal the Black Cats have conceded this season.
“It’s a disappointing one to take again - another home game, another defeat,” added a dejected Bardsley after a third defeat in four games for Poyet’s side.
“We need to eradicate it rapidly if we want to stay in this league.
“It was similar to Chelsea in conceding so quickly. We need to hold onto leads and see the game out.
“We’ve got to sort it out defensively, otherwise we’re in big trouble.”