MATT KILGALLON says Sunderland’s training regime has sustained his fitness on the fringes after making a belated first Premier League start of the campaign.
Centre-half Kilgallon impressed on his first top-flight appearance since May against QPR on Tuesday night after replacing calf injury victim John O’Shea.
The 28-year-old has completed 90 minutes just twice this season – as an over-age player in September’s Under-21 derby against Newcastle United and then in the Capital One Cup victory at MK Dons seven days later.
But Kilgallon, who returned from the wilderness to feature 11 times under Martin O’Neill last season, believes his work on the training field at the Academy of Light ensured he was sharp against QPR, even if he is not yet match fit.
Kilgallon told the Echo: “It’s been hard for me at Sunderland really.
“But I just try to do my best when given my chance, that’s all I can do.
“I just have to take it game-by-game.
“I thought I did alright on Tuesday night considering I hadn’t played all season.
“I felt fit and sharp and that’s down to the training the staff put on for us. They make it hard.
“But although keeping sharp’s alright, there’s nothing like a proper Premier League game.
“It’s match fitness more than anything that you need.”
While Kilgallon helped Sunderland to their fourth top-flight clean sheet of the season against QPR, the Black Cats returned to the limp attacking habits which looked to have ended after six goals in their previous three games.
Kilgallon insists all of Sunderland’s players must share the responsibility in front of goal after taking just a solitary point from back-to-back home games against West Brom and winless QPR.
“At least we got a clean sheet, which is always your job as the back four,” added the former Sheffield United defender.
“But everyone’s got to help create chances, it’s not just the widemen or the strikers.
“When we go up for corners, we’ve got to get our heads on things as well. It’s a team thing.
“It was always going to be a difficult game against QPR.
“They had the new manager in so they were going to be up for it and they’ve got some good players there as well.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but points are vital and at least we’ve got one.
“In the second half against West Brom, we showed some real fight and we could have nicked something in the end.
“The goals we conceded were a bit freaky – Simon (Mignolet) made a mistake which he never does and then there was the penalty that wasn’t.
“But we can’t get too down about things.”