What the form book says about Sunderland’s relegation rivals and what they need to survive

John O'Shea, Lee Camp and Tyias Browning can only look on in despair as Adam Matthews, right, deflects the ball into his own net against Ipswich Town last Saturday, a defeat that sees Sunderland second bottom in the league.
John O'Shea, Lee Camp and Tyias Browning can only look on in despair as Adam Matthews, right, deflects the ball into his own net against Ipswich Town last Saturday, a defeat that sees Sunderland second bottom in the league.
0
Have your say

Chris Coleman admitted that Sunderland were giving him sleepless nights.

He had just witnessed yet another woeful capitulation from his side, one that left most with little faith that relegation can be avoided.

The Sunderland boss, however, was far from defeated. He saw promising signs from his new signings and, generally speaking, was left satisfied by the backing he got in the January window.

Most importantly, the gap to Championship safety is somehow just two points.

Despite their rank incompetence for much of the season, the Black Cats are not cut adrift and, for all concerned, that was the one straw left to clutch on the weary walk away from the weekend defeat to Ipswich Town.

Sunderland have all sorts of problems, but they far from alone.

They have taken 10 points from their last 10 games. To stay up, an uplift in form is clearly required and some of their numbers are frightening.

They have scored only five goals in that time and have continued their habit of shipping them in large clusters. As Billy Jones sagely put it, when Sunderland are bad, they are absolutely awful.

The last two games have certainly brought a heightened fear of the drop, not just because of Sunderland’s woeful displays, but because of some excellent results for those just above them.

Indeed, the form of Birmingham City and Bolton Wanderers has posed a massive threat to Sunderland’s Championship status.

The Blues have taken 14 points from their last 10 games, six in the last two, while Bolton, suffering from all manner of financial problems and having just sold top scorer Gary Madine, have taken an impressive 16 in the same time.

That has opened a gap to the Black Cats and one that needs to be closed sooner rather than later.

A daunting trip to Bristol City on Saturday, beaten by Bolton last time out but enjoying a fine season, has done little to allay fears.

Still, the departure of boss Paul Heckingbottom to Leeds is a further blow to a Barnsley side badly struggling for form, having won just once in 16 games (predictably, that came against Sunderland).

In their last 10 games they have also mustered just five goals, and taken seven points. The Black Cats are now within striking distance of the Tykes, who are fighting their own uncertainties.

Bottom club Burton have 10 points from their last 10 games, but have now been beaten for five games in a row, shipping an eye-watering 16 goals in that time.

Hull City appointed Nigel Adkins in December and he has failed to lift the mood, the Tigers suffering from much the same apathy that has afflicted Wearside this season.

They have not found any kind of unifying leadership, with seven points from their last 10, and just six goals.

Then there are the next group, slowly but surely being pulled into the picture.

There is currently a sizeable gap to Reading and Sheffield Wednesday, but the form of both has been absolutely woeful.

Jos Luhukay has failed to bring much improvement at Hillsborough, with just five points collected from the last 10 games.

Reading have managed only one more in that time. If that continues and Coleman can extract performances from his new arrivals, that gap can be closed over a 16-game period.

They perhaps do not deserve it, but Sunderland still have a big opportunity to haul themselves out of trouble.

Coleman has an unenviable in-tray of problems, but continues to take solace from the fact that he still has time to get his creaking squad over the line.