Vito Mannone is going “crazy” over Sunderland’s inability to keep a clean sheet.
Sam Allardyce’s side have gone 12 games without a clean sheet – the longest run in the Premier League.
And Italian stopper Mannone knows they have to end that miserable statistic soon and stop conceding “cheap” goals if they are to stay up this season.
Experienced Allardyce has built a career on his teams being difficult to break down, but opposition side’s have found it all too easy against the Black Cats this term.
Indeed, Sunderland have only managed to keep THREE clean sheets all season, in the victories over Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Stoke City.
It isn’t for the want of trying though, insists Mannone, who has impressed since ousting Costel Pantilimon as the club’s No 1 goalkeeper.
Mannone told the Echo: “For me, I’m going crazy!
“We’re desperately trying to get one (clean sheet), but we’re finding it tough to get it.
“I’m making a few saves to keep us in the games.
“But it’s the work of the whole team, from the strikers through to me.
“All 11 players have to be concentrated on not giving cheap goals away,” added 27-year-old Mannone, who has fought hard to become Allardyce’s first choice.
The loss of early goals has been the Achilles heel all season, with Sunderland conceding a record nine goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches.
The arrival of £5million ex-Lorient defender Lamine Kone has helped strengthen the back four in recent games, with Jan Kirchhoff impressing in the holding midfield role.
And hopes of survival have been given a much-needed boost with four points from their last two outings; the 2-2 draw with Liverpool and the 2-1 win over Manchester United.
Picking up points is, of course, the ultimate aim in the battle to beat the drop ahead of this weekend’s return to Premier League action away at seventh-placed West Ham United.
But Mannone – fresh from the warm-weather training camp in Dubai – concedes Sunderland can’t keep relying on the attacking players to get them out of trouble.
Grinding out clean sheets is also going to be key in the final 12 games of the campaign.
“At the end of the day, the points are the main thing,” added Mannone.
“But the manager wants the basics right, the clean sheets first and then build from there.
“That’s what he’s done in his management career for the last 20-odd years.
“We need to do that.
“But maybe points give you the mentality and the fighting spirit to get one in the next one.”