Football Echo Verdict: Positive signs, despite striking deficiency

Billy Jones battles to get the better of Swansea's Nathan Dyer today. Picture by Corrina Atkinson
Billy Jones battles to get the better of Swansea's Nathan Dyer today. Picture by Corrina Atkinson
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SUNDERLAND are becoming a dream for punters drawing up their Saturday afternoon accumulators.

Putting a draw down for the Black Cats is the first step to any successful coupon.

A fifth in six Premier League outings felt more like a defeat after Sunderland’s late pressure against 10 men failed to find the breakthrough which they deserved.

The wait for that elusive first top-flight victory goes on and on, and the anxiety which accompanies such a run will last for another seven days at least.

There will be some nerves and pressure in the air at the Stadium of Light when Stoke City visit next Saturday.

But, for the first time this season, there was some encouragement that Gus Poyet’s side are beginning to find their feet.

Unlike the previous four draws where Sunderland merited little more than a point, this was the most convincing the Black Cats have looked so far.

Yes, there is clearly an issue in putting the ball in the back of the net.

The headers sent off-target by both Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher were the kind of opportunities which cannot be spurned at this level.

Until one of Sunderland’s strikers becomes a regular scorer, there will be question marks over where the club are heading this season.

But Sunderland were controlled, hard to beat, passed the ball well and looked dangerous with their threat from out wide.

That’s a big step in the right direction.

There was a more natural shape around Poyet’s line-up from the off with Billy Jones at right-back and two orthodox widemen on their natural flanks.

Jones, Will Buckley and Adam Johnson were all a threat, while Ricky Alvarez showed what he will bring to the table with a superb cameo off the bench.

Sunderland may have been restricted to just two efforts of note for the first 70 minutes or so, but they looked in control, with Swansea offering little at the other end.

The chess match between the two sides was not enthralling as a spectacle, but anyone who goes hell for leather against Swansea will find themselves picked off.

Sunderland pressed the visitors, minimised those long periods of possession which Swansea enjoy and had Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole breaking up any short-sharp passing on the edge of the area.

Swansea followed suit in upping their pressing game early in the second half and goalmouth action further ebbed away.

But in that last 20 minutes – admittedly helped by a second yellow card for Angel Rangel – Sunderland built up a head of steam and pinned Swansea back with everyone behind the ball.

The chances were there. Who is going to take them – after a second successive Premier League stalemate – will be the talking point this week.

But if Sunderland continue to play in the same manner, the goals and the results will come.

It has not been possible to make that statement previously this season.

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