Another season at the wrong end of the table, another relegation battle for Big Sam – overall a season that hasn’t gone to plan
Sunderland is battling to remain afloat; sitting in 17th place with four matches remaining, can manager Sam Allardyce work his magic once more?
So far this season the Black Cats have struggled defensively, and their recent match against Norwich was only their second clean sheet from their last 19 Premier League games.
Sunderland did show an impressive attacking effort in this match, with goals from Favio Borini (penalty), Jermain Defoe and Duncan Watmore.
Allarydyce has hailed Defoe as the key man for Sunderland.
Defoe joined Sunderland on a three-and-a-half year deal from Major League Soccer outfit Toronto FC in the January transfer window of 2015.
His 2015/16 season has bagged 13 goals. Allardyce told Sky Sports Defoe has given the club hope it can stay up.
— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) May 1, 2016
“Today (Defoe) put us on the right track, scoring a second goal at the right time and that made life more desperate for Norwich,” Allardyce said.
“They had to throw everything at us and that left the door open at the back for us to score the third.”
Allardyce have been praised for use of the former England goal scorer Jermain Defoe and Defoe told Daily Mail he enjoys being the lone front man in attack.
“Maybe that puts more pressure on myself, I don’t know,” the ex-Tottenham striker said.
“But I want my team-mates to think: if we are solid and keep them out and then get one chance then JD will score.
“That’s why I came here, to this big club, to make the difference and keep this club in the Premier League.”
Defoe haul of 13 goals for Sunderland so far this season represents a third of the team’s total tally. His goal-scoring has outperformed compatriots from Norwich, Newcastle and Aston Villa.
The importance of a goal-scorer to avoid relegation can be seen with current wooden-spoon holders Aston Villa’s performance last season.
Their front man Christian Benteke scored 13 times to help keep Villa in the Premier League.
Allardyce told The Independent Sunderland is dealing with the pressure of the drop better than both Norwich and Newcastle.
“It’s a huge moment for us, to come here and try to win this game,” Allardyce said.
“Dealing with the pressure paid off. That was the key element to our victory because of the position we are in and because we were away from home.
“Our clinical finishing at the right time put the game to bed and our defending was superb. Everything was right. It’s a massive result and it gives us a lot more hope.”
Allardyce wants his team to fight, but not in the same way he carried on with a sideline scuffle with Norwich’s Jonny Howson and Cameron Jerome.
“I got a bit carried away, but the Norwich players were encroaching my box, I was always going to protect my players and my mob,” Allardyce explained.
The fireworks continued after the touchline farce with Norwich Manager, Alex Neil, telling The Eastern Daily Press Big Sam was talking “rubbish”.
“To say they handled the pressure better than us is a load of rubbish,” Neil said.
“ThEy got the penalty, they scored it, and then they got a breakaway goal after we should have moved the ball a bit quicker, that was the difference in the game. I didn’t think Sunderland looked more threatening than us.”
Sunderland’s supporters can help buoy the team – the Stadium of Light has attracted near capacity crowds all season long.
The Black Cats will need more than just luck to get them over the line, but Defoe’s strike-power, Allardyce’s wily experience and a city’s passion may be the extra ingredients required.