Sam Allardyce has been encouraged by the early signs of defensive progress, despite his Sunderland reign beginning with defeat.
Allardyce made it clear when he arrived at the Stadium of Light that his immediate priority was to ease the frailty of a side which had shipped 18 goals during the opening eight games of the season.
I have to be pleased with what I saw on the basis of first and foremost stopping goals going in the back of our netSam Allardyce
And while Sunderland only produced one effort on target in Saturday’s defeat at West Brom, they were undoubtedly a more resilient outfit at the other end.
Sunderland reached half-time without conceding for only the second time this season, while West Brom mustered just one meaningful moment – Saido Berahino’s second-half winner.
As he looked for crumbs of comfort from his opening game at the helm, Allardyce was heartened by those indications of defensive improvement from a side still looking for their first clean sheet and first win of the season.
Allardyce said: “I’d have been delighted to get a draw on Saturday, especially if it was 0-0.
“I’d have been ecstatic if we’d have got all three points.
“Thirteen players were away on international duty last week, and they only came back on Thursday.
“So I have to be pleased with what I saw on the basis of first and foremost stopping goals going in the back of our net.”
Allardyce laid the blame for Sunderland’s defeat squarely on the shoulders of referee Martin Atkinson after failing to award a foul for Berahino’s barge into Costel Pantilimon, before kicking the ball out of the keeper’s hand.
But there was no condemnation from the new Sunderland manager of keeper Pantilimon for his failure to cleanly take Chris Brunt’s cross.
“We lost 1-0 and I can’t really point the finger at anybody to say ‘you’re the reason why they scored’,” added Allardyce.
“It’s the referee’s mistake, but whoever’s mistake it was, it’s tough to take.
“We haven’t got anything out of a game which looked to be heading to a 0-0.
“Certainly in the first half, West Brom had zero shots on target and didn’t have many in the second.
“I don’t really remember Pantilimon having to make a save really, but we still lost 1-0. That’s the problem.
“And then the referee has turned the game for them with the decision on the goal.
“It was a clear foul. We didn’t really look like we recovered from there, it knocked the stuffing out of us.”