SAFC Analysis: Massive week ahead for Sam Allardyce after WBA misery

Horror for Costel Pantilimon as Saido Berahino bags the only goal for West Brom yesterday. Picture by Frank Reid

Horror for Costel Pantilimon as Saido Berahino bags the only goal for West Brom yesterday. Picture by Frank Reid

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Perhaps Sam Allardyce would simply have been creating a bad omen for the derby had he registered anything from his opening game at the helm.

The pattern of new Sunderland managers, of course, goes lose the first one and then triumph over Newcastle the following week.

But this was an opportunity missed that Sunderland can ill-afford in their game of catch-up, particularly against a relegation rival who were pretty dire and mustered only one effort on target to break their home duck.

Yes, Allardyce was right to stress the magnitude of the foul on Costel Pantilimon for West Brom’s winner, yet we’ve all been taught the importance of playing to the whistle since being knee-high and the Romanian still should have gathered Chris Brunt’s cross.

For the second game on the spin, there was a costly mistake from the keeper, despite his raging remonstrations at referee Martin Atkinson.

After Saido Berahino benefited from Atkinson’s leniency and a fortuitous ricochet to tap the ball into the empty net, Sunderland never remotely looked like getting back into proceedings, despite Allardyce gambling on a 4-4-2 for the closing stages.

In fact, they didn’t do at all after their bright opening 20 minutes, when Billy Jones had dragged an excellent tip over the top from Boaz Myhill.

Nevertheless, it was the other end of the pitch which had been Allardyce’s focus pre-match and in that department there was a vast improvement.

Either side of the game’s defining moment, West Brom never looked like scoring.

Now, that was partly down to the attacking deficiencies of the hosts, with Stephane Sessegnon the only player for Tony Pulis’ side who remotely looked a threat.

Despite his desperation to hurt the club which gave him a chance in English football, Sunderland old boy James McClean was well kept under wraps by DeAndre Yedlin, before the winger needlessly goaded the away end afterwards to spark a spot of fisticuffs.

But with five men strewn across the middle of the park, Sunderland were well-drilled and difficult to break down, and that after just two days on the training ground with Allardyce’s full squad.

They got to half-time without conceding for only the second time this season after they were able to keep possession calmly and effectively, without necessarily worrying the Baggies.

Improving Sunderland’s defence, while retaining an attacking threat will be the focus of Allardyce’s work during a full week on the training ground which he will be relishing.

But he will have to hope that the derby pattern continues. Sunderland are running out of time to get that first win before it’s too late.