Phil Smith analysis: Sunderland's regression becoming increasingly painful to watch

Sunderland fell to another Premier League defeat

Sunderland fell to another Premier League defeat

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The game was already up, but it was a move of such ineptitude that it summed up another painful afternoon.

A free-kick won right on the edge of the opponent's box.

Taken short, a pass of no more than five yards. Even then, it was straight to a West Brom shirt. They broke at speed, forcing young George Honeyman to foul Matt Phillips thirty yards from goal.

In a matter of seconds, a promising position had turned into panic stations.

There were spells in the game here where Sunderland were competing. The opening twenty was pedestrian, but even, and there was a fleeting resurgence at the start of the second half, a switch to a 4-4-2 bringing an increase in tempo and incision.

Yet for the most part Sunderland are simply not functioning as a team.

David Moyes has his hands tied with injuries and budgetary restrictions but his side seem devoid of ideas in attack, a deflected effort from Patrick van Aanholt the only time they really had Ben Foster panicked.

In defence the same deficiencies were exposed, West Brom attacking the left flank with vigour and power. Sunderland never looked like coming to terms with Matt Phillips, the Baggies searching for him at every turn. Far too often, he found acres of space and no significant opposition. It was his cross that led to the second; an inevitability in truth.

At the moment, it is difficult to see where the next positive result is coming from.

Victor Anichebe returned from injury, David Moyes likely to pair him up with Jermain Defoe henceforth in the hope that the improving form seen earlier in the season can return.

It looks a tall order, this painful run of games sapping the confidence from the rest of the side. Most importantly, the fans are increasingly losing hope that a descent to the second tier of the game is anything other than a formality.

That the Black Cats are still not cut adrift is remarkable.

Swansea's surprise victory of Liverpool has spread further panic but defeats for Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace means the cause is far from lost.

If the return of their target man, and a swift comeback from Jordan Pickford, can steady the ship, then there are enough games to make a fight of it yet.

For the time being, hope is fading. This was another display that pointed to a failing side.