Rowell Report: Choking under pressure is now a familiar flaw at Sunderland

Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
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AFTER Monday night’s game against West Ham, I just felt a huge sense of frustration and disappointment as Sunderland again failed when expectations were high.

The players and coaching staff have all got to take a serious look at themselves, as they have choked so often when the pressure is on and another so-called winnable game proved beyond them.

Like a lot of our fans, I was very surprised that Gus Poyet played three centre-backs in a home game against the Hammers.

I understood the reason why he did it at Anfield against Liverpool, as they are the league’s leading scorers, playing breath-taking football.

But at home against a team that have scored only 12 away goals?

The formation sent out all the wrong signals.

For the third game running, Sunderland only started to play when they were two goals down, with the game just about beyond them.

And that’s always the sign of a team that struggles with the pressure.

Things might have been different had they been awarded the stonewall penalty they should have been given, when Kevin Nolan clearly handled in the area.

But referee Howard Webb, for some reason, didn’t give the decision and I’d love to know the reason why.

With the league table as it stands, Sunderland have failed to beat one single team in the bottom half at home.

And that bare fact shows just how much this squad of players has under-achieved so far this season.

Sunderland’s place in the Premier League is hanging by a thread now, as opportunity after opportunity is squandered.

And after every failure, the pressure increases and that in turn makes the next game more difficult.

The defeat to West Ham means another game has come and gone, leaving Sunderland with eight games left to avoid the drop but massive improvement needs to be found if it is to be achieved.