Lack of goals hurts Sunderland at Birmingham

Steve Bruce
Steve Bruce
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SUNDERLAND’S lack of goals continued to hamper them at the weekend as they drew a blank for a fourth consecutive away game.

That’s now just nine goals scored in the 10 games since Bent’s £24million defection to Aston Villa.

But manager Steve Bruce – following Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Birmingham – refused to blame the January sale as the sole reason for the goals drying up.

Responding to the suggestion that he might have been better off insisting on the England striker staying until the summer, he said: “Any team would miss him and hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“But the one thing that was patently obvious was that Darren wanted to go and it’s always a risk hanging on to a player who doesn’t want to be at your club.

“Maybe we’ve got to learn something when it comes to a situation like that, but the summer is the proper time to re-evaluate all that stuff, not now.”

Bruce pointed out that while the loss of Bent might be part of the problem, it is only a fragment of a broader picture of setbacks up front this season.

“We had four strikers at the start of the season – Gyan, Campbell, Welbeck, Bent – and those four strikers are better than most teams in this division,” he said.

“The loss of Bent was a blow, but no more than the loss of an in-form Welbeck to injury and Campbell to injury all season.

“It has meant Gyan has largely had to do it on his own.

“Asamoah has done OK in his first year but, for a substantial part of it, he’s carried the burden himself and that’s been the source of our recent problems in front of goal.”

On Saturday, other players finally pitched in – Jordan Henderson, Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole all having pops at goal.

And Bruce, who praised 21-year-old Jack Colback’s tigerish debut, said: “The young lads showed a great attitude and I’m very, very pleased with that.

“There’s flashes from Sessegnon which tells me he’s going to be a good player for Sunderland.

“When he settles down he’ll be great, but he’s scratching his head at the moment because he still hasn’t enjoyed a win since he got here.

“I was pleased with the team on the day because we were very young but coped very well.

“It’s an individual error for the first goal.

“It’s one of those horrible ones and it’s particularly disappointing in a game where we created more and better chances, that we should just about hand them a goal.

“I don’t want to criticise Simon Mignolet for it, though, because he’s been fantastic for us, one of our better players this season, and mistakes do happen.

“All we can do is move on and put it behind us.”