Gary Rowell column - Sunderland need mental strength at Stoke

Glenn Murray is left unmarked to head Palace in front on the way to their 4-1 defeat of Sunderland. Picture by Frank Reid
Glenn Murray is left unmarked to head Palace in front on the way to their 4-1 defeat of Sunderland. Picture by Frank Reid
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WE WILL find out on Saturday whether Sunderland have got the Crystal Palace defeat out of their system after the two-week break.

Hopefully, the team is well rested and refreshed because they must know that in the remaining games of the season, they have to give nothing less than every last drop of effort – and it starts this weekend.

Just why Sunderland find it so difficult to be in a similar position to Stoke is a huge source of frustration and anger to fans, who yet again have suffered a season of disappointment and mediocrity

Stoke are always well organised, hard-working and resolute, which makes them difficult to play against, but they don’t have the electric pace that our last opponents Palace had throughout the team, which caused us so much damage.

That’s a bonus for Sunderland, but it’s how they perform under increasing pressure that will determine our fate this season and we have to approach Saturday’s game in the same manner as the Newcastle one.

Sunderland just have to find the passion and desire they showed in the derby where they hunted in packs and didn’t allow the opposition to settle, as Stoke are the sort of team who will take advantage if they sense any uncertainty or lack of belief in the opposition.

At this stage of the season and in our position, how strong Sunderland are mentally is going to be crucial, as with games slipping away, there’s little room for error.

Stoke beat a strong Southampton team chasing a European place on Saturday, so they will view the visit of Sunderland as a great opportunity to record back-to-back wins on home soil.

Mark Hughes has taken his team on from the one-dimensional side they used to be and guided them to a position in the top 10, free of any relegation worries.

Just why Sunderland find it so difficult to be in a similar position to Stoke is a huge source of frustration and anger to fans, who yet again have suffered a season of disappointment and mediocrity.

Stoke though are one of the few teams we’ve already beaten this season – way back in October when both Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher were on the scoresheet.

The players have got to have the belief that if they’ve done it once, they can do it again.