Bruce admits striker situation will not improve

02 May 2011 07:00
STEVE Bruce admits Sunderland will have to limp to the end of the season without a recognised striker despite his patched-up attack failing to fire in Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Fulham.

Asamoah Gyan, Danny Welbeck and Fraizer Campbell are all nursing long-term injuries, while even reserve players Ryan Noble and Billy Knott were unable to face the Cottagers after picking up problems of their own in the week.

The latter duo could feature in the remaining three matches against Bolton, Wolves and West Ham, but neither Gyan, Welbeck nor Campbell are expected to be available before the end of the campaign.

As a result, Bruce will have to rely on the likes of Stephane Sessegnon and Steed Malbranque, who were unable to make a breakthrough as the Black Cats slumped to their ninth defeat in the last 11 matches at the weekend.

"Fraizer's definitely out, and I can't see Asamoah or Danny playing either," said an understandably downbeat Sunderland boss. "They both suffered hamstring injuries last weekend and what have we got left, three weeks I can't see it.

"We're going to have to show a bit of resilience, roll our sleeves up and have a go. We can all feel sorry for ourselves, but this league doesn't feel sorry for you.

"What's happened has happened and we've got to bite the bullet and fight the flak that will come our way again this week. We've got to get on with it and get a couple of results because you just never know. We might need another couple of points yet."

While Blackburn's 1-0 win over Bolton took them to within three points of the Black Cats, Bruce's side remain six points clear of the relegation zone with three matches remaining.

As a result, it is hard to see them going into their final game at West Ham with their fate in the balance, but on the other hand, it is also difficult to see where their next victory is going to come from with such an injury-ravaged attack.

Things were so bad on Saturday that Nedum Onuoha spent the last 25 minutes charging around as an emergency centre-forward, a tactic that, perhaps predictably, failed to unsettle the Fulham defence.

"It was pretty desperate really," admitted Bruce. "I'd actually seen him play there for the Manchester City youth team four or five years ago, so I thought it was worth a shot. But it's pretty desperate stages when you're trying something like that."

To make matters worse, Lee Cattermole and Jordan Henderson both picked up knocks in the second half of Saturday's defeat that could yet make them doubtful for this weekend's trip to Bolton.

Cattermole in particular appeared to be struggling in the final ten minutes of the game, and the skipper will be properly assessed later today.

"It looks as though Lee's carrying something, but we won't really know how bad it is until we have a good look on Monday," said Bruce. "Jordan's got a bit of a knock as well so we'll have to see how he is too.

"It's too early to tell yet whether they'll be available for the weekend, but it's just something else to add to the list. What normally happens when you're up against it is that you pick up more injuries, and that's certainly what's been happening with us."

If Cattermole fails to make it to the Reebok Stadium, Phil Bardsley is likely to skipper the side, although the Scotland international has been playing through the pain barrier himself in the last few matches.

"I felt a bit rusty out there if I'm honest," said Bardsley. "I'm not making excuses for myself because I'm not the type to do that, but maybe the injury last weekend (when he suffered concussion after colliding with Onuoha) didn't help.

"I think that knocked me a bit, but I'm the type of person that just wants to play for this football club. Sometimes, though, maybe you should just hold your hand up and say it isn't quite right."

Source: Northern_Echo