STEVE Bruce hailed his comeback kings after Sunderland twice came from behind at the Stadium of Light on Saturday to deny Aston Villa victory.
And the Black Cats’ manager says that that resilience reflects the togetherness that exists in the camp despite, or maybe because, of the difficult start to the campaign.
“We cannot deny what a decent team spirit we’ve got,” he said.
“We’ve worked on that and you need it when you go behind in games – that ability to stick together and draw the strength from each other that you need to come back into games..
“Overall, I thought we did well in what was a difficult game for us because we played well first-half but were caught out by a wonder goal from Stiliyan Petrov – I don’t think he’ll score as good a goal again with his left foot.
“We were the better team before the break and Villa edged it in the second half, so a draw was probably a fair result.”
Sunderland’s plans were not helped by injuries to Simon Mignolet and John O’Shea which enforced changes and prevented Bruce injecting more fresh legs into his side in the second half.
“Aston Villa played very well and used the pace of Darren Bent, Charles N’Zogbia and Gabriel Agbonlahor to good effect in the second half,” he pointed out.
“Some of our players looked a bit leggy in that second half, not quite as sharp as they’ve been in previous games.
“But there wasn’t much I could do to change it round because we’d been forced to use two of our three substitutions early in the game.
“We had made the decision to play with two strikers and we got two goals from that, but, in the second half, their extra man in midfield hurt us.”
Villa’s dominance in the closing stages saw the visitors take the lead just six minutes from time, but Sunderland got out of jail after yet another great free-kick from Seb Larsson was headed home by Stephane Sessegnon in a crowded box.
“Larsson’s set-piece deliveries were fantastic all through the game,” acknowledged Bruce.
“I can’t see there being a better free transfer around anywhere this summer.
“He gets goals, he gets assists and that was uppermost in my mind when we signed him because his set-piece delivery is up there with the very best, up there with the Beckhams, dare I say.
“And quality from dead-ball situations is such an important part of the game now.”