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Advocaat rues missed chances

Published 25/04/2015

Charlie Adam, pictured, was on target for Stoke
Charlie Adam, pictured, was on target for Stoke

Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat was pleased with a point but frustrated by opportunities that had been squandered after his side drew 1-1 at Stoke and slipped into the Barclays Premier League relegation zone.

The result marked a creditable response from the struggling Black Cats as they bounced back from the 4-1 home humbling against Crystal Palace last time out.

But after starting the match in 16th, a point clear of the drop zone, they ended it 18th, a point adrift of safety, with both Hull and Leicester having leapfrogged them after winning their fixtures on Saturday.

Advocaat's men - who have five games left to play - took the lead inside the first minute at the Britannia Stadium as Connor Wickham punished an Asmir Begovic blunder.

And they might have gone 2-0 up but Jermain Defoe put a good chance into the side-netting moments before Stoke notched a deserved 27th-minute equaliser through Charlie Adam's ferocious strike.

The visitors had further decent opportunities after the break which they could not take, while surviving a few scares at the other end.

And, asked afterwards if he was pleased with a point, Advocaat said: "Yes, I am because I think in the first half we played very poorly - we were lucky it was 1-1 at half time, so I could change something in the line-up.

"We had had some problems picking up players, but in the second half after the changes everyone knew what to do.

"From that moment on we also started playing football a little bit, it was much better than the first half, and we created three or four good opportunities.

"But they were the kind of chances where, at this level, you have to score because you don't get more than four or five in a game.

"Even in the first half at 1-0 up, we had the chance for Defoe. If it becomes 2-0, you never know what is going to happen then."

Advocaat admitted other results had not been ideal for Sunderland but stressed they could not afford to rely on anyone but themselves as they continue their battle for survival.

And the Dutchman was keen emphasise that the commitment shown by his team was a key positive for them to take into next weekend's home clash with Southampton.

"It seems strange with the way Crystal Palace played against us that they are then in the two home games that follow losing against bottom teams (against West Brom and, on Saturday, Hull), so I am not too happy about that," Advocaat said.

"But we have to do this by ourselves.

"Today it was a good point. We have to take that into the next home game against Southampton - if we can give the commitment we gave today, I'm very positive about that.

"We still have five games to go and everything is open with the bottom four, five, six clubs, so we will try to be positive."

The build-up to the game had been turbulent for Sunderland, with Adam Johnson on Thursday being charged with three offences of sexual activity with a child under 16 and one of grooming.

Although Advocaat had suggested on Friday Johnson would be in the squad if the midfielder felt "okay", he was absent from the Black Cats' 18-man party when the teams were announced on Saturday.

And asked about that after the game, Advocaat said: "He did not train for three days so I thought it was better for him to stay away."

Then asked about the prospect of Johnson being selected in upcoming matches, the manager said: "Let's wait and see what will happen in the next few days."

Giving his assessment of the contest, Stoke boss Mark Hughes - whose side stay ninth - said: "We made a terrible start.

"We had talked about the first goal and the importance of it before the game, and lo and behold we go and concede inside a minute.

"We are disappointed with that, but I thought it was a great response from us in the first half - arguably the best we've played for quite some time.

"It was a great strike from Charlie, on his wrong foot which shows you the quality of it.

"They made a bit of a change in personnel for the second half and pressed us higher. The game became a little bit fragmented and open - we had opportunities and so did they.

"In the end we were disappointed with 1-1 because overall, it was an opportunity missed."

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