Belfast Telegraph

Sam Allardyce is keen to lift a weight off Sunderland stars in survival battle

By Robert Jones

Sam Allardyce will spend the next week trying to take the pressure off his Sunderland players in their relegation fight.

The Black Cats boss felt nerves were to blame for his side's below-par performance in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Stoke.

The considerable consolation was the point they gained thanks to Jermain Defoe's injury-time penalty, although Newcastle's victory over Crystal Palace meant Sunderland dropped back into the bottom three.

Allardyce said: "I didn't expect it. The lads are very good, they're all supporting each other better than any team I've been involved with in the relegation fight.

"In the last few games I hadn't seen the sort of edginess I saw here so we'll have a talk about that and try and get them to believe a little bit more."

Sunderland have three games left to save themselves for a fourth consecutive season. First up is a home clash with Chelsea before their game in hand on Newcastle against Everton and then a trip to Watford.

Allardyce said: "Too many chances thrown away by ourselves has heaped more and more pressure on us. I'll try and calm those nerves next week, not heap too much pressure on them, and try and get them ready mentally."

Defoe netted his 14th Premier League goal of the season after winning the penalty at the Britannia Stadium to make it 12 points his goals have earned Sunderland this season.

"He's kept us in a position where we can avoid relegation," said Allardyce. "He scores vital goals."

Stoke boss Mark Hughes was left disappointed by the fact that his side failed to win for a fifth successive match. But the feelings were different to heavy defeats their previous three games.

That led to accusations Stoke's players were metaphorically on the beach - accusations Hughes believes they have answered.

The Welshman said: "The performance was good and a lot of players got near the levels that I know they're capable of.

"There's no question that we're not trying to see the season out in the right manner. I think we put all those comments to bed."

Belfast Telegraph


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