JOHN O’SHEA insists Sunderland must slip out of the comfort zone and put the top 10 challenge back on track by ending their West Brom hoodoo this weekend.
Back-to-back Premier League defeats may have reduced the buffer with the relegation zone to six points, but Sunderland still remain closer to the top half of the table than they do to the bottom three.
Four points separates the Black Cats from 10th-placed Stoke City ahead of four consecutive games against sides lying outside the top eight.
But if Martin O’Neill’s men are to secure a first win in five weeks on Saturday, they must bring an end to a dreadful recent record against West Brom.
The Wearsiders have lost five of their last six meetings with the Baggies, including a 4-0 rout at the Hawthorns 12 months ago in Martin O’Neill’s joint heaviest defeat as Sunderland boss.
Defender O’Shea told the Echo: “As the manager has pointed out, where we are in the table looks fairly comfortable, but a couple of wins would really push us on.
“That’s what we have to do, starting at West Brom. We’re under no illusions how hard it will be – we got a good hammering there last year.
“We’ll have to be on our toes.
“But the second half against Arsenal 10 days ago was something to build on, even though we didn’t score.
“We know we’ll have to be defensively very strong as a team away from home at West Brom though.”