MICHAEL TURNER hopes he will be back in contention to solve Sunderland’s set- piece woes when they return to action at Everton.
Turner’s aerial presence has been badly missed in Sunderland’s last two outings, with Steve Bruce’s side conceding four times from set plays against Stoke and Tottenham.
The former Hull City defender has been out since November with knee ligament damage and the Black Cats had coped well without the 6ft 4in centre-half until a run of three successive defeats.
But Turner is expected to be in the running for a place at Everton on Saturday week after returning to full training.
Turner told the Echo: “It’s up to me to get back fit and get back into the team.
“It would be nice to come back into a team who are doing well and flying high, though. It makes it easier than if the team is struggling for form and victories.
“It’s not all about the two at centre-back. It’s about other players in the team doing their job defensively.
“We’ve defended well from all positions most of the year. Against Stoke, they sent all their big guns forward and they all know exactly where the ball is going.
“They’re well drilled and practice every day on situations like that. It’s always difficult defending set-pieces like that.
“It was frustrating that we couldn’t deal with the bits and pieces.”
The trip to Goodison Park marks the start of a testing four-game run for Sunderland, which involves visits to Arsenal and Manchester City and a Stadium of Light clash with sixth-placed Liverpool.
Sunderland haven’t played badly in any of their three back-to-back defeats, yet the losses have seen them fall two points adrift of Liverpool.
But Turner is confident Sunderland will be back in contention for a top-six finish if they can take points off those above them ahead of an inviting run-in to the campaign.
“Everyone has done well and we’ve had quite a consistent season really,” said the 27-year-old.
“The last three results haven’t been great, but I’m sure coming into the last 11 games of the season that we can kick on. Liverpool seem to have turned a corner a little bit and they’re showing some form.
“But we’ve still got to play them at home. There are some big games coming up but if we can win those we’re in there with a shout.”