Sunderland 0 West Brom 0: Jeremain Lens' future in the balance plus five other things learned from draw

Jermain Defoe in action for Sunderland
Jermain Defoe in action for Sunderland
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It was another frustrating day at the office for Sunderland, with two points dropped against mid-table West Bromwich Albion.

Sam Allardyce's side secured their first clean sheet since the end of November but they failed to score despite peppering the Baggies goal.

Fabio Borini gets a shot away for Sunderland

Fabio Borini gets a shot away for Sunderland

Here's what we learned from the Stadium of Light stalemate:

West Brom were there for the taking:

Tony Pulis couldn't have made his gameplan any clearer. He named four central defenders across the backline and had a hardworking, industrious midfield lacking in playmakers.

The time-wasting Baggies had come to frustrate the Black Cats. And they did just that.

Dame N'Doye had a late goal disallowed for offside

Dame N'Doye had a late goal disallowed for offside

Sunderland dominated the possession, the play and the number of chances created; 22 they fired at Ben Foster's goal. Only seven on target though.

Compare that to West Brom, who didn't manage a single attempt on target. It was Vito Mannone's quietest game of the campaign.

Sunderland carved out enough chances. West Brom were there for the taking.Yet through poor finishing, bad luck and Foster's heroics, Sunderland couldn't capitalise.

Outstanding Ben Foster presses England claim:

Wahbi Khazri battles for the ball

Wahbi Khazri battles for the ball

With Jack Butland out for the season, a place has opened up in the England squad ahead of Euro 2016 and Foster staked his claim.

Foster denied Jermain Defoe, Jan Kirchhoff, Fabio Borini and others with a series of impressive saves with all parts of his body.

Fraser Forster and Joe Hart are ahead of him in the pecking order but Foster's chances of landing a place on the plane to France were strengthened on Wearside.

He was outstanding. Both Allardyce and Pulis agreed on that.

Ben Foster excelled in the West Bromwich Albion goal

Ben Foster excelled in the West Bromwich Albion goal

Jeremain Lens' future hanging in the balance:

The £8million summer signing had made all the right noises ahead of kick-off, with Lens keen for a return to first team action after a hernia operation.

But the Dutchman didn't even make the squad, dropped rather than injured. He warmed down with the subs post-match.

Lens' time at Sunderland has not been a happy one and his future at the club and under Sam Allardyce looks decidedly bleak.

He has made just 20 appearances in league and cup competitions, scoring three goals and there has also been questions over his work rate.

While he has been out injured, that return is still poor for a player of his ability.

It would be a major surprise to see him in a Sunderland shirt next season, regardless of which division they are in.

A precious clean sheet, at last:

It has taken a mammoth 17 league games but finally, Sunderland managed to record a clean sheet.

Allardyce prides himself on his side's being hard to beat.

They have become just that but Sunderland were simply unable to keep a clean sheet. Until now. Mind, West Brom offered no threat whatsoever.

Saido Berahino and Salomon Rondon were both poor, with no service to feed off.

Sunderland have played well since the turn of the year but head to Norwich on the back of four straight draws.

They must start converting draws into wins - with four needed from the remaining seven games. Time is almost up.

Patrick van Aanholt excelled again:

Sunderland's defence held firm and nullified what little threat the Baggies posed.

The midfield were dogged and pressed West Brom back all game, helping create numerous chances.

Up front, Fabio Borini and Wahbi Khazri posed a threat, with the Italian drifting infield to help support Defoe.

Usually, you'd have bet your mortgage on Defoe sticking away one of the several chances he squandered.

In his defence, the sole frontman did have to battle against four central defenders.

It wasn't his day but Van Aanholt again impressed.

The most improved player under Allardyce, he has transformed his season.

Sunderland's fate remains in their own hands. Just.

Sunderland are four points behind Norwich City after their last-gasp win over Newcastle United.

But the club's fate remains in their own hands.

With a trip to Carrow Road to come a week on Saturday and a game in hand, Sunderland can still decide their own destiny.

But with just seven games of the Premier League campaign now remaining, there is no longer any room for error.

Sunderland have become hard to beat. But they are struggling to beat the opposition. That must change. Fast.