CONNOR Wickham says he is being urged to become more of a penalty box predator after helping himself to a derby double.
Wickham notched two tap-ins in Sunderland Under-21s’ 2-2 draw at Newcastle last night and could have helped himself to more as the Black Cats spurned a glut of chances to miss out on a first victory of the campaign.
The 19-year-old, who scored for England U21s last week, revealed Sunderland’s coaching staff have been urging him to spend more time in the penalty area as he bids to make the improvements necessary to force his way into Martin O’Neill’s first-team plans.
Wickham told the Echo: “I could have had about five, let alone a hat-trick. I haven’t played in a while, but it’s just nice to get on the scoresheet, even though they were less than a yard out.
“Every goal counts and I’m obviously disappointed not to score more.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve just been told to get in the box more and that’s what I did on both occasions. Thankfully it paid off and I stuck them away.
“I just need to work on my efforts from a bit further out!”
Wickham had a golden opportunity to notch a hat-trick just before his withdrawal on the hour mark, but couldn’t control Louis Saha’s through-ball which left him one-on-one with Magpies stopper Jak Alnwick.
“It was a good ball from Louis and my first touch just got a bit too far and their keeper had a good starting position and he just beat me to it,” he said.
Wickham admitted Sunderland were left disappointed at the conclusion of an end-to-end encounter at the Sports Direct Arena after dominating the second half, yet paying the price for their wastefulness in front of goal.
“All the boys gave it their best, but we are ruing the missed opportunities,” added the £8million hitman.
“Hopefully it will be a learning curve. We can all learn from last night.
“The second half was 100 times better.
“At half-time, the manager said we had to do more and the boys knew it within themselves.
“We came out the second half, got the goal to draw level but just couldn’t finish them off.”