WEST Ham boss Sam Allardyce wants a victory at the Stadium of Light tonight to all but end his side’s relegation fears.
But he expects a tough examination from Gus Poyet’s Sunderland, who are even more desperate for points.
West Ham look on the brink of safety having beaten Hull last midweek to climb to 34 points, nine better off than tonight’s opponents.
Asked by West Ham’s website – whufc.com – if he can begin preparations for another Premier League season by beating the Black Cats, the one-time Sunderland defender said: “Yes, but let’s go and try to win the game because Sunderland have a desperate need to win three points.
“It’s going to be hugely difficult, as it always is, but it will be more difficult because they will take some comfort out of the performance they gave at Liverpool.
“They will think this is a great chance to get to safety by getting three points against us, who have not picked up much away from home.
“We’ve got to keep the Mackems quiet!
“We’re in single figures of games left and now wins become massive, because the games are running out.
“When it gets to this stage, if you have got the points, it’s critical because it becomes even more difficult to achieve them now.”
Sunderland are second bottom in the table, facing a daunting run-in, with four tough games to follow tonight. Allardyce (pictured) added: “In the position they are in now, the games are running out.
“They have games in hand due to their fantastic run to the League Cup final and when you are catching those games up at this stage of the season, it is difficult and puts that added bit of pressure on them.
“Everybody goes around saying ‘If you win this game or that game you are going to be safe’ but points in the bag are more important than games in hand at this stage.
“I think it puts a little extra pressure on them, knowing they need to win those games to get out of the bottom three and out of trouble. That may tell in the end.
“Gus Poyet has done a fantastic job since he’s been there and the effort from their players and him have been great in terms of trying to get out of the position he started from.
“It just goes to show how difficult it is to get out of that situation after a bad start.
“Their team has changed and played in a different way and has had some very good results, but recently they have probably played well enough but haven’t finished the opposition off when they’ve had the chance.
“Their lack of goals has been a problem – as we’ve found this season. If you don’t take your chances, you can end up losing when you don’t deserve to. It makes all the difference.”