Jordan Pickford’s Sunderland verdict: Clean sheet a positive, now to get it right at the other end

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Sunderland were left counting the cost of missing a number of excellent second-half chances on Saturday.

The Black Cats’ failure to find the net in the 0-0 draw against Burnley saw the gap to the safety of 17th place increase to an intimidating seven points.

But goalkeeper Jordan Pickford was pleased that he and his defence were able to keep a first clean sheet since the beginning of February.

Pickford was in typically excellent shot-stopping form, drawing praise from Burnley boss Sean Dyche for a late save from Sam Vokes that kept the scores level.

The 23-year-old had praise for his opposite number Tom Heaton, currently ahead of him in the England pecking order and making a fine save to defy Adnan Januzaj, and was delighted with the way his team-mates protected him.

Pickford said: “We had a few good chances missed, but, on the plus side, at least we’re creating those chances.

“We couldn’t convert them, but we’ve got to keep strong and keep believing in ourselves.

“We’ve got to weather the storm sometimes as a team, we knew their work ethic, they’re just going to keep coming and coming, they’re never going to back off.

“At least we kept the goals to zero and got the clean sheet.

“The defending started from the front, with Fabio (Borini) and Jermain (Defoe) closing down and working hard to get the ball back.

“We managed to do that as a unit and it is just about getting the goals now.”

Sunderland’s task in avoiding the drop has been much tougher by another couple of priceless wins for the teams above them in the table.

Swansea, Hull and Middlesbrough were all beaten at the weekend, but wins for Crystal Palace and Leicester City – both making it three victories on the trot – have left the Black Cats fighting to stay afloat.

Pickford is eager not to pay too much attention to those results and is confident that the Wearsiders are close to a run of form themselves, despite having scored in just one of their last seven matches – the 4-0 romp at Palace.

The stopper now heads off for England Under-21 duty – with games against Germany (Friday) and Denmark (next Monday) – but when he returns his side face three crucial games in little over a week, against Watford (April 1), Leicester City (April 4) and Manchester United (April 9).

Pickford said: “It was nice to get a clean sheet. Hopefully in the next couple of games, after the international break, we can put two and two together and get the clean sheet and the win.

“We just need to keep working hard on the training ground.

“We’re just that little fraction away from getting the results that we need – we’ve got to just concentrate on ourselves, not look too much at the table, just keep working hard and it will click.”