Belfast Telegraph

Poyet backs Wickham despite miss

Sunderland head coach Gus Poyet came to the defence of striker Connor Wickham after seeing him fail to cap a creditable performance with a match-winning goal.

The 21-year-old proved a handful throughout for Swansea skipper Ashley Williams, but when his big chance arrived 16 minutes from time, he fluffed his lines with a wayward header.

As a result, the Black Cats had to settle for a second successive 0-0 Barclays Premier League draw and are still awaiting their first three-point haul of the campaign.

But Poyet said: "His overall game was great. He held the ball well, he passed it well, he ran with the ball, he created chances for himself, he was in the box more than ever - it's that last touch.

"I think I even moved my head for the header, I tried to head it with him.

"But planning for the future, I am looking at the team. It doesn't matter if we win or not, I am going to tell you and I am going to be honest, and this is the way I want.

"For the first time in a few games, we trained for something and it really worked on the pitch, which is going to give the players the confidence to believe in what we do.

"We tried, we put the ball into the box more than ever, we had crosses and I don't know how many corners and free-kicks, so we are trying.

"This is us at the moment. We need to go to the next level, and that level is scoring and winning games."

On a day when clear-cut chances were at a premium, Sunderland created the better of them with Lukasz Fabianski having to save from Adam Johnson and Santiago Vergini before the break and Sebastian Larsson after it.

However, Wickham really should have won it after being picked out unmarked by Larsson six yards out, only to sky his header high over the bar, and even Angel Rangel's 81st-minute dismissal for a second bookable offence failed to open the door for the home side.

Poyet said: "If I look from the point of view of the position in the league, the points we have got and where we want to be, yes, it's frustrating.

"But if I look at it from the point of view of training, things that we prepared for the game, the way we played, the chances we created, I need to be quite all right.

"I am not saying 'happy' because we didn't win, but nearly because we stopped Swansea from playing, we were a little bit higher on the pitch, we had pace, we put plenty of balls into the box, created chances - we just missed the goals."

Opposite number Garry Monk was satisfied with a point, however, after seeing his team misfire on Wearside, yet end a run of two league defeats.

Monk said: "If you look at the game overall, we weren't at our fluid best, not really creating the chances we have been doing in the other games.

"But the next best thing after that if that's happening is to make sure you defend well, keep a clean sheet and make sure you don't lose the game, which we did well."

Monk had no complaints about Rangel's premature exit after he was booked for an 81st-minute challenge on Will Buckley having already been cautioned for throwing the ball away, but he was less than impressed with the pitch at the Stadium of Light.

He said: "The pitch was a bit difficult. It was left a little bit long and it was a bit soft, so our passing wasn't quite able to be as crisp as possible."

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