Josh Maja on the challenge of being Sunderland's lone striker ahead of January reinforcements arriving

Josh Maja is determined to embrace the pressure of being Sunderland's lone striking option '“ until the cavalry arrives on Wearside.

Monday, 15th January 2018, 6:00 am
Sunderland's Josh Maja battles in vain against Cardiff. Picture by Frank Reid

Manager Chris Coleman is desperate for additional firepower, with Sunderland waiting to hear on the availability of their targets.

They have little option but to make headway this week ahead of the crunch Championship game with Hull City on Saturday.

Burnley striker Jon Walters, an unused sub for the Clarets at the weekend, and young Liverpool attacker Ben Woodburn are on Coleman’s radar, with the need pressing for strikers. Sunderland have scored just once in five games.

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The Black Cats lost top scorer Lewis Grabban after he returned to parent club Bournemouth, with James Vaughan following him out the door to League One promotion chasers Wigan Athletic.

Both had made it clear they didn’t want to play for Sunderland, leaving Coleman desperately short of striking options.

Maja, who recently turned 19, is the only out and out striker left, with 18-year-old forward Joel Asoro often deployed out wide.

Coleman has had no option but to show faith in the youngsters, but he knows it is too much pressure on the teenage pair and remains hopeful of a breakthrough this week.

Maja, playing catch-up after missing four months with a knee injury, is determined to embrace the challenge in the meantime, having led the line for the 4-0 weekend defeat at Cardiff City.

“I embrace the opportunity,” said Maja.

“I like a challenge and the more experience and opportunities I get then I can really stamp my authority on the first team and hopefully get some more goals and help us get more wins.

“The goal against Fulham seems an age ago now, but we just have to keep working hard, keep working hard in training.

“I am looking forward to it [new strikers coming in]. I don’t think it will make too much difference to me, I will keep doing all I can in training and the games when I get the opportunities.

“It is all about taking your opportunities when they come along.

“I have to learn from each game, take in as much experience and knowledge from the older lads and hopefully get better with every game.”

Cardiff halted a run of four straight Championship defeats as Callum Paterson’s brace, plus goals from Joe Ralls and Anthony Pilkington, sealed a comfortable win.

Defeat left dismal Sunderland bottom and three points from safety. “It was a difficult afternoon for the boys,” admitted Maja.

“First-half, we started off well, we were in the game, but we were slow to start (in the) second half and that’s what cost us the game. The early goal set us back and we were chasing the game from there. It made it very difficult for us.

“It was always going to be a challenge [playing up front alone], up against three very big and experienced centre-halves. It was difficult for me, but we did well, first-half.

“We created a few half-chances.

“A bit more quality and better decision-making in the final third (and) we could have nicked something. It wasn’t meant to be.”