Poyet not worried about bad luck
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has called on his side to break their away day curse as they travel to Aston Villa on Saturday rooted back to the bottom of the Barclays Premier League table.
Poyet's three away games in charge since taking over from Paolo Di Canio have yielded three defeats, three own goals and three red cards - although last week's for Wes Brown at Stoke was subsequently rescinded.
The Black Cats' luckless displays have been in stark contrast to their home form, which has seen successive wins over Manchester City and Newcastle and implied an ability to steer clear of trouble.
Poyet said: "I know that our last three away games were incredible. I try not to think too much about bad luck but when you get so many own goals and sendings-off it makes it difficult.
"So far I'm not worried but sometimes when you're down at the bottom and think you're doing well, you get a hammer in the head that brings you back down.
"We need to make sure we turn our away form into wins and prove we can get back with the other teams in the mix. All I am asking for is a normal game with no incidents."
Poyet's first game in charge saw a 4-0 defeat at Swansea including own goals from Phil Bardsley and Steven Fletcher, and a penalty from Wilfred Bony.
A Carlos Cuellar own goal saw the Black Cats slide to defeat at Hull despite battling through the second half with nine men following the dismissals of Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena.
And the controversial sending-off of Wes Brown hampered Poyet's hopes of getting something out of the game at the Britannia Stadium, although the Uruguayan has accepted the issue is in the past after speaking with referees' chief Mike Riley this week.
Brown, Cattermole and Dossena are all available against Villa and Poyet insists that despite the apparent disciplinary issues afflicting his squad, he is loathe to sap their spirit by laying down the law over future indiscretions.
Cattermole in particular has now been sent off eight times in his career but is clearly regarded as an important player by Poyet, who is expected to restore him straight back to his starting line-up.
Poyet said: "One of the first things a manager says to his players is to stay on the pitch and keep it 11 versus 11.
"We need to give it careful attention without forgetting that you need to compete, you need to be strong and you need to tackle. It's a balance and at the moment we can't find the right balance.
"I want to have that feeling that we've done everything we can to compete. We need to be stronger and better. I wish we could have played this game earlier in order that we could get last week out of our system."
Vito Mannone is expected to retain his place in goal as Keiren Westwood struggles to shake off a knock. Cuellar is ruled out with a hip injury but otherwise Poyet can choose from a fully fit squad.