MICHAEL Turner believes Sunderland’s defence has passed the acid test after taming Stoke City’s aerial bombardment.
Sunderland recorded a third consecutive Premier League clean sheet in Saturday’s 1-0 victory at the Britannia Stadium as Martin O’Neill’s resurrection of the Black Cats continued with a fifth win in six.
O’Neill’s side have conceded just three times in the whole of 2012 and boast the fourth-best defensive record in the Premier League.
And after the 10-man Potters failed to test Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet at the Britannia, centre-half Turner hailed the defensive resilience the Wearsiders have developed under O’Neill.
Turner told the Echo: “You know what you get when you go to Stoke – it’s relentless with the balls coming into the box.
“Sometimes, you can’t win every ball and you just need to try to get in the way of someone or block them off.
“Credit to the lads, everyone defended for their lives in that penalty area. It was a great result.
“Simon didn’t have too many saves to make.
“We kept them to opportunities from long distance and we defended their set plays tremendously well.”
The blizzard conditions in the Potteries ruined any prospect of a spectacle, with both sides struggling to muster clear-cut chances.
But after Robert Huth was handed a straight red card on the stroke of half-time for a reckless lunge on David Meyler, Sunderland made their extra man advantage count on the hour mark when James McClean grabbed his third of the season.
“The snow was pounding down for the whole game and only got worse as it went on,” said Turner.
“I think that was the coldest game I’ve ever played in.
“It was always going to be an untidy game with the conditions. But with them going down to 10 men, we knew at half-time we had a chance to get a tremendous result.”
The 28-year-old added: “To be fair, I was right there (next to Huth’s tackle) and I thought it was quite reckless.
“The referee has made his decision and there’s nothing we can do about that.
“Because of the way they play, with the long-throws and free-kicks into your box, it doesn’t matter if they’ve got 10 or 11 players. They’re still going to play the same way.
“We knew if we got to half-time and did exactly what we did in the first half, then we’d get that chance to win the game and we managed to do that.”
Turner made his second start under O’Neill after being blighted by injuries since the ex-Celtic manager’s arrival at the Stadium of Light.
“It’s been a frustrating period for me,” said Turner.
“I came back and played seven games at the back end of Steve Bruce’s time, but picked up an injury before the new manager came in.
“But I’m fit now and pleased to be in the team.”
H Full coverage of Sunderland’s win at Stoke, in tonight’s sports pull-out.