Sunderland boss on Jordan Pickford performance and Jermain Defoe knock

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Sunderland's chances of staying up took another heavy blow after defeat to Watford - but Jordan Pickford's performance won praise from the manager.

The England Under-21 stopper was in superb form, including a superb double save in the first half, pushing M'Baye Niang's effort clear before pushing Abdoulaye Doucoure's effort wide with a firm right palm.

Jermain Defoe went down in the second half but completed the match

Jermain Defoe went down in the second half but completed the match

Miguel Britos' back post header was the difference in the end, and it would have been more if Pickford had not shone again.

The Washington-born stopper won praise from his manager post-match.

David Moyes said: "Jordan is a top young goalkeeper, and is now beginning to look like a top senior goalkeeper as well, albeit that he’s of a young age.

"He made one really good save in the first half, but more importantly, it felt as though he had a real command of his penalty box.

"Watford are probably the biggest side in the league, they remind me of a couple of old-fashioned teams from years and years ago, but we defended set-pieces against them really well, except on one occasion.

"We just didn’t deal with that one in the second half.

"If Jordan keeps up his form like he’s doing, then there’ll be few goalkeepers who can do what Jordan Pickford is doing at the moment."

Defeat left Sunderland seven points adrift with just nine games to play.

Moyes, who insists he is confident Sunderland can still stay up, added: "We’re not playing well enough (to survive), I’m not kidding anyone on about that.

"We’ve had moments of playing well, but we’ve not been playing consistently well enough to threaten. We need to play better.

"There’s no point denying that – ultimately, that’s what we need to do."

Meanwhile, there was a real moment of concern for 14-goal top scorer Jermain Defoe went he went down in pain in the second half after taking a knock to his right leg.

The England striker looked uncomfortable for several minutes after the challenge but did complete the game and showed no ill effects as the game wore on.

Moyes, speaking after the game, said: "Jermain took a couple of rattles. I’ve not heard anything at the end.

"I’ve not really asked the physios, but he certainly had a couple of rattles."