Sunderland have to beat the drop the ‘hard way’ with daunting February fixtures

Billy Jones
Billy Jones
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Sunderland are going to have to do it the “hard way” if they are to maintain their Premier League existence, admits defender Billy Jones.

The Black Cats recovered from falling behind to claim the first draw of Sam Allardyce’s tenure in Saturday’s clash with Bournemouth, to at least prevent the Cherries creating a nine-point buffer with them.

But a solitary point may not be sufficient given Sunderland’s current plight, particularly after Swansea City’s 2-1 victory at Everton yesterday left Allardyce’s men four points adrift of safety.

Next month’s fixtures offer scant hope of Sunderland improving their position either, with the Black Cats facing both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, plus a trip to Allardyce’s former club, West Ham.

So far this season, Sunderland have managed just one point from the nine games against those sides currently occupying the top eight places in the Premier League.

But, with Sunderland fast running out of games to emerge from the relegation zone, full-back Jones admits Allardyce’s men are going to have to upset the odds at some stage.

Jones told the Echo: “First and foremost, you want to beat the teams in and around you to gain ground on them.

“If that’s not the case, then you have to do it the hard way.

“We’ve obviously done that in previous seasons, so the boys in the dressing room have got experience of that.

“We know we’ve got some tough games coming up, but we have to find a way to get results and move on up the league.

“We know the situation we’re in, we know the pressure we’re under for the rest of the season, so we have to work hard and do it another way.

“It was obviously a massive game for both teams on Saturday, more so for ourselves with the position we’re in.

“Yes, we needed those three points.

“But that point might turn out to be valuable come the end of the season.

“Recently, we’ve done well against the teams in or around us, so, to not win, we’re going to have to get one of those shock results like other teams have done this year.

“We might have to do that to get out of trouble.”

Sunderland deserved little more than a point against Bournemouth, albeit Jones had a glorious second-half opportunity with a header which was well-saved by Cherries keeper Artur Boruc.

Allardyce’s men were utterly wretched for much of the first half, before pulling level on the stroke of half-time through in-form Patrick van Aanholt.

Jones added: “We were disappointed with the way we started the game.

“At home, you want to be on the front foot, but they passed the ball better than us.

“But we weathered the storm, carried on in there and managed to get a goal before half-time.

“Maybe we could have nicked it towards the end, when we were putting on the pressure – the keeper made a good save from myself.

“On another day, we might have got all three points.”