Chris Young verdict: Quick goal will ease the tension

Fraizer Campbell
Fraizer Campbell
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IT TOOK Fraizer Campbell a mere 41 seconds to break the deadlock against Bolton 13 months ago.

How Sunderland could do with a similarly quickfire goal tomorrow to end another winless streak which has seen Sunderland plummet ominously towards the dregs for the second successive year.

Campbell’s shank against Bolton last season settled Sunderland’s deep unease at their precarious situation and prompted their first victory in 15 attempts.

The three points did not guarantee survival, but they prompted an end of season flourish from the Black Cats to comfortably avoid the drop.

There will be similar tension on the terraces at the Stadium of Light tomorrow after a seven game winless streak.

Win, and talk of the drop will be all but forgotten. Lose, and Steve Bruce’s side are very much in a relegation scrap.

With West Brom facing the incentive of leapfrogging the Black Cats too, you can understand why Bruce has described the game as a “cup final”.

This is THE game which could decide whether Sunderland make progress and finish in the top half this year or ultimately flatter to deceive by continuing to be dogged by annual relegation fears.

Anxiety will not be helped by the starkly contrasting recent form of both sides.

Yes, four of Sunderland’s six defeats since they last won a game have come against sides in the top six.

But confident is still dented, particularly when players trudge off a pitch with a mixture of embarrassment and shock following a 5-0 drubbing.

Meanwhile, West Brom, set to be backed by 3,000 travelling fans on Wearside, have the belief which comes with edging away from a relegation fight that was beginning to look ominous.

Ten points from six games under Roy Hodgson have given the Baggies a fighting chance although the situation could swiftly change with Chelsea and Spurs on the horizon after the weekend.

Hodgson has instilled the organisation and ruthlessness so reminiscent of his miraculous survival act at Fulham.

Five will line up across the middle of the park with Peter Odemwingie looking to exploit the gaps in behind Michael Turner and John Mensah on the break.

Chris Brunt and a rejuvenated Jerome Thomas, deployed on the opposite flanks to their natural feet, will whip inswingers into the Sunderland box, looking to deceive Simon Mignolet with a far post touch.

But Sunderland should not fear the Baggies – Hodgson’s side don’t present the same test as a Chelsea, Spurs or Manchester City.

Just one clean sheet all season, ironically against Sunderland back in August, tells its own story about West Brom’s soft underbelly.

A six-game unbeaten run doesn’t tell the full story either – the Baggies have still managed to squander a three-goal lead against West Ham and a two-goal advantage against Arsenal.

The key factor in tomorrow’s game isn’t West Brom’s rejuvenation – it’s Sunderland’s mental state and whether they can use the harrowing City experience positively, to pressurise the second worst defence in the top flight.

Certainly, Sunderland need to vastly improve in the creativity stakes after barely mustering an opportunity of note in their last two games.

To that end, expect Bruce to ring the changes.

If Sunderland can provide the front two of Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan with a regular supply of ammunition, then Bruce’s men will prevail.

If not, it will be a long final six games of the season.

Verdict: Home win