Sam Allardyce admits he feared Sunderland would join Aston Villa in plunging out of the Premier League at a whimper before the turn of the year.
And even though Sunderland remain in severe jeopardy of joining Villa in the Championship next season, Allardyce maintains his hope that the upturn in performances over the last two months will ultimately bring the results which keep the club in the top flight.
Sunderland suffered five successive defeats in December which left the Black Cats staring down the abyss to the Championship, alongside basement boys Villa.
But the capture of January signings Wahbi Khazri, Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchhoff instantly provided Sunderland’s survival bid with momentum, and Allardyce’s side have suffered just one defeat in their last seven games.
Sunderland remain in the drop zone because of their inability to convert draws into wins after fluffing golden chances in each of their last four games.
Yet Allardyce believes that the display in Saturday’s stalemate against West Brom was as good as Sunderland have produced this season and he remains confident that the necessary results will arrive with a splash of fortune.
“If you watched us in December and saw some of our performances, you would think we’d be down there with Villa now,” he said.
“When we were 3-0 down against Chelsea you would have thought we’d never get anywhere near getting out of trouble.
“We should be out of trouble now with the performances we have produced.
“But we are not, so I just hope that bit of fortune starts going our way very very quickly.
“We need a bit of luck and a bit more clear-cut finishing on top of how we are playing.”
A stalemate against the Baggies for the second successive year at the Stadium of Light at least provided Sunderland with a first clean sheet since November.
That has been a bug-bear of Allardyce’s for weeks, particularly after Sunderland shipped late equalisers in their previous two games against Southampton and Newcastle.
But it was the other end of the pitch where Sunderland’s hopes of victory were quashed after they were unable to convert a succession of chances, albeit Baggies keeper Ben Foster proved to be in inspired form.
“I don’t think we could have played any better than we did,” added Allardyce.
“We couldn’t have made it look any easier apart from the fact that we didn’t finish off the opposition.
“We should have buried them.
“We got the clean sheet but couldn’t score the goal. We can’t quite get it right at the moment.
“They had four centre halves and four central midfield players blocking us off and we kept playing around them and through them.
“Unfortunately it was one of those games where Ben Foster put in a great performance that made me feel like shooting him.
“He made so many outstanding saves. Normally I would have expected us to have won 2-0 or 3-0.
“One good thing will be if we keep clean sheets like we did on Saturday, because let’s face it, West Brom never looked like scoring.
“In the last seven games we have only failed to score against West Ham and West Brom, so if we keep some clean sheets between now and the end of the end of the season, it’s unlikely we are not going to score.”