THERE were one or two in the Stadium of Light Press Room who thought Gus Poyet might have been putting it on when he claimed to be pleased with his side’s performance against Crystal Palace at the weekend.
A game he had described as more important than a cup final?
A game not won against the league’s lowest scorers?
Unable to penetrate a defence which had not kept a clean sheet in its last five games despite ample opportunity?
Possibly the most easy-to-win home fixture on paper, not won?
But the Uruguayan was being honest in his assessment – he felt his team did everything right but get the victory.
And he believes more performances like that will inevitably yield winning results for the Black Cats.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “That was us out there.
“We tried everything and if we play like that in the future, time will tell whether we are good enough, but that is the way to perform – to take the game to the opposition, to take a risk, to try.
“We tried free-kicks, in behind, in front, one-twos, we tried everything.
“Now we didn’t score – that’s the hardest part of the game – and the opposition played their part.
“They had a plan.
“It was a very respectable plan to defend throughout, which they’re entitled to do, but I was pleased with how we played because that’s what I asked of the players.”
The character of his side’s efforts was what pleased him most – such a contrast to the unfocused effort produced in the FA Cup quarter-final against Hull City last weekend.
And Poyet reflected: “I’m very, very calm because the players gave everything they’ve got for this football club and for the fans and that’s all I can ask.
“We did things better, although without scoring.
“In other games when we have been in control, we haven’t had too many balls in the box, we haven’t had too many shots and we haven’t looked like much of a threat.
“But against Palace we tried hard – maybe too hard at times!
“I thought we threatened them throughout and tried more of everything.
“We gave the strikers what they wanted – Adam Johnson crossed more often than in probably any game all season – we just couldn’t get that extra inch of luck to go our way.
“But I’ll be very pleased if we can keep on playing like this.”