SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Sunderland must do better, a winning run could be on the cards

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago today.

WE’RE THE NEARLY MEN!

We must do better – Ward

Darren Ward fears Sunderland could pay the price of having to play catch-up in the Championship.

The keeper’s heroics almost helped the Black Cats to grab a vital three points at home to Southampton on Saturday.

But his Welsh colleague Gareth Bale notched a deserved equaliser and Ward warned that Sunderland – who fell to 19th in the league but remain only six points behind the play-off position – need to come to life soon or face some regrets.

He said: “Teams are taking points off each other and we know the league is very close. Even the top teams are dropping points here and there. It gives everyone hope.

“The season is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s our league position in May that matters. Having said that, we need to put on a show and get up there as quickly as we can so that we’re in contention and don’t leave it too late.

“It’s happened to teams that they’ve found their form and just fallen short at the end. That would be very tough to take. You don’t want to have that problem. You want to get up amongst the challengers as early as possible.”

Victory on Saturday would have taken the Wearsiders to within four points of the promotion pack, but a draw left them four points from the drop zone.

Ross Wallace’s 62nd-minute free kick had Sunderland out in front until the last minute of normal time, but few were arguing any injustice when Gareth Bale’s effort was deflected past Ward by home skipper Steve Caldwell.

“It was possibly a fair result after the amount of pressure they had and chances they created,” said Ward. “But it is difficult to stomach not holding on for the win. The lads are a bit down. When you concede an equaliser so late, it feels like a defeat.

“The gaffer said that we should not drop our heads because we got a point on Saturday but played better the previous week at Norwich and got nothing. You try to take the positives. It stopped the rot after a couple of defeats. We were close to winning without playing particularly well, but we are a bit deflated.”

Though pleased with his brilliant stop from Portuguese midfielder Pele’s 77th minute header – “one of the best saves I have ever seen,” said Roy Keane – Ward preferred to leave it to others to judge his fine performance.

Next Saturday’s visitors Colchester lost 3-0 at Leeds at the weekend and the 32-year-old added: We are all working hard on the training pitch and hopefully we will get the rub of the green sooner rather than later. We’re in a results industry and we need to start getting some maximums to get us up the division.

“We have Colchester at home now and maximum points are the target.”

ROSS: WE CAN STILL GO ON BIG RUN

Ross Wallace believes that Sunderland can still launch a push for promotion.

Saturday’s 1-1 draw at home to Southampton saw the Black Cats drop to 19th place in the Championship – 16 points adrift of leaders Cardiff, albeit just six points off the play-off zone.

Wallace, whose free-kick opener had Sunderland on course for victory against the Saints until Gareth Bale levelled in stoppage time, said: “I was just pleased to get the goal. I’m happy with my form just now – but it’s a team game and it’s getting the wins that’s most important because we want to get up that league.

“It’s two points lost, but the gaffer was stressing to us it’s a point gained.

“He was quite pleased. He was really happy to get a point and hopefully next week we’ll be getting the three points.

“Last week, we played well against Norwich, we played some good stuff and never got anything, so if we don’t play as well as we can and still get a point, we’ve got to be satisfied with that.

“It’s something for us to take into the Colchester game.

“I don’t know why we’ve been so inconsistent really. People have been saying it’s because of the unsettled team, things like that.

“It’ll take time, but I think it will come together. Once it does, we have to go on a big run because we’ve got the players to do it.

“Two wins and you’re right up in the play-off positions, two losses and you’re right down there.

“You’ve just got to think positive all the time.

“People aren’t running away from us. The teams we’ve played, like Cardiff and Preston at the top of the league, we’re capable of beating them easily. We just need to do it now.”

Wallace’s third goal of the season – as he returned from a two-match suspension – secured the draw with Southampton, saying: “We never really got started. It was a bit disappointing to lose a goal, because, obviously, we were battling hard, but, overall, I think they deserved a point.

“If they had been 1-0 up and we had equalised, everybody would be buzzing. It’s just the fact that we scored first and didn’t keep a clean sheet that hurt us the most. We didn’t push up the park as a team enough during the game.

“We’re usually quite good at that and it’s been in the final third that it’s been disappointing this season.

“Against Southampton, it was the opposite. I thought the strikers did really well for us, holding the ball up and I think the midfield and the defence didn’t push up enough to help them.

“Usually we’re quite good at passing it in midfield, and it’s been in the final third where we haven’t really produced. Overall, our play was disappointing.

Sunderland midfielder Graham Cavanagh was substituted with a shin injury on Saturday but should be available for this weekend’s visit of Colchester. Trevor Carson was the sub keeper on Saturday, with injury keeping out Ben Alnwick.