THE WEMBLEY feelgood factor around Wearside seems to have waned significantly in the space of just three weeks.
Sunderland’s FA Cup quarter-final humbling at Hull City, followed by an ugly stalemate against Crystal Palace, has held back any momentum from the Capital One Cup final, albeit last weekend’s Stadium of Light clash was the club’s highest attendance since October’s Tyne-Wear derby.
But while Sunderland’s home troubles continued against Palace and the gap with the safety mark extended to three points, it’s far from doom and gloom.
The Black Cats still have at least two games in hand on those sides around them, and as centre-half Wes Brown points out, their Premier League form should not necessarily be causing alarm bells.
Since suffering defeat to Spurs on December 7, Sunderland have only lost three league games; taking a 17-point haul from 12 outings – a return which has been understandably overlooked with the glut of fixtures in both cup competitions. Brown told the Echo: “If you look from Christmas, we’ve only lost three, won four and drawn the rest.
“If you look at that side of it, it’s not as bad as you think.
“If we can keep going, hopefully the points will be there.
“It’d be good to stay up because it’s obviously been difficult. When the manager changed, we weren’t doing so well and we only had one point.
“It took us a few games to get playing how the manager wanted us to, but we’ve finally started doing that and points have started coming.
“We’ve played well in games and not won, and I think that’s been the main problem really.
“Teams have nicked a goal against us.”
Nevertheless, Sunderland are running out of opportunities in their remaining “winnable” games on paper to register the points necessary to beat the drop.
Tomorrow’s trip to Norwich City is certainly one of them, with the Canaries four points above the drop zone, yet feeling hot under the collar with their final four league games coming against Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal.
Brown expects a similarly tense affair to last Saturday’s clash with Palace, but is well aware of what a tonic three points would be for Gus Poyet’s men.
The former England international added: “Both teams will be playing cup-tie football, flying all over.
“That’s the position we’re in and everyone has got to deal with it.
“If we can do that and show some quality, I’m pretty confident we can get the goals.
“There are points to be won from these games, but they are difficult because everyone is fighting for their lives. We’d take four points from the two games.
“It would have been nice to get the three points against Palace, but if we can get the win at Norwich, it pushes us back up the table.
“If we were playing really bad football, you could maybe panic a bit, but I think we’re showing good qualities at times.
“We’re just not managing to finish it off.”
* Don’t miss the biggest and best coverage of Sunderland’s trip to Norwich, plus Tony Gillan’s View From The Bridge, Brian Patterson’s away guide to Liverpool, Yesterdays and much more, in tomorrow’s online Football Echo – it’s available on sunderlandecho.com from around 6.45pm