Bruce alarmed at yet another away reverse

07 December 2009 10:25
A DOWNBEAT Steve Bruce last night described Sunderland's away form as alarming, and admitted his efforts to instigate an improvement had so far been in vain.

The Black Cats suffered a sixth Premier League away defeat as they went down 1-0 at Fulham yesterday, tumbling to tenth in the table in the process.

They have not won on their travels since seeing off Bolton on the opening day of the season, a run that has silenced any talk of European qualification and undermined a string of impressive displays at the Stadium of Light.

Bruce admits he is tearing his hair out at the contrast between Sunderland's eye-catching home form and their insipid displays away from the North-East, and accepts that his side's failure to fire on their travels is a major concern.

I've never known a side be as Jekyll and Hyde as we are at the moment, said the Black Cats boss, who watched Bobby Zamora's seventh-minute header condemn his side to defeat on the banks of the Thames. It's pretty alarming, especially away from home.

I'll have to do something about it because it's a really serious worry. We've had thousands of people come here again, just like we had at Wigan, and the first half was exactly the same story as last weekend.

We're just not doing enough, and we're certainly not doing the nitty-gritty that you have to do to compete in the Premier League.

We're okay at home, but we can't keep relying on that home form. We'll have to address what's happening away and do something about it.

Sunderland's performance in the opening 45 minutes was as bad as anything they have produced all season, with a failure to handle Zamora's aerial threat exacerbating a general lethargy that handed the momentum to Fulham.

Things improved in the opening stages of the second half, with both Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent wasting decent opportunities to claim an equaliser.

By then, though, it was effectively too late, and Sunderland's failure to hit the ground running ultimately condemned them to a deserved defeat.

You've seen the two sides of Sunderland, and that's the frustration with what we've got at the moment, said Bruce. When we're up against it a little bit, we don't do enough.

We produced a response in the second half, but the first half in particular was simply not good enough and we have a right to be disappointed.

We're going to have to do something away from home because we need to get this monkey off our back.

But if you perform like we did in the first half in particular, you're never going to win a game in the Premier League, it's as simple as that.

The second half was better, and if we'd had that approach in the first half, I'm pretty sure we'd have taken something out of the game.

Fulham's goal summed up Sunderland's general lack of application, with neither Phil Bardsley nor Michael Turner reacting quickly enough to prevent Zamora from reaching John Pantsil's right-wing cross.

The goal was pathetic, awful, said Bruce. It summed the whole thing up. It was just a long punt into our box really, but we allowed them a free header from seven yards without even attempting a challenge.

It was poor stuff.

To make matters worse, Sunderland lost Anton Ferdinand to a badly twisted ankle, and the defender is now a doubt for next weekend's home game with Portsmouth.

Bardsley and Kieran Richardson will be available to play in that game, but the duo will both miss the following week's game with Aston Villa after picking up their fifth booking of the season.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, compared Zamora to Emile Heskey and put him forward as a possible World Cup candidate after his striker silenced his critics.

Zamora sent Fulham back into the top half of the Premier League with a seventh-minute winner, then aimed an angry celebration at his own fans after they criticised him.

Zamora troubled Michael Turner and Nyron Nosworthy in the same way as Heskey does for England at international level and neither have good scoring records.

Hodgson added: Heskey is a powerful player, very willing and hard working. Bobby is more technical.

It was quite interesting being on a panel with Terry Venables the other day, discussing World Cup squads.

You could also make a case for one or two more unusual selections, players who maybe have something a little bit extra. He was talking about Ledley King.

If you perpetuated that argument, you might come up with an argument for someone like a Bobby Zamora, the type of player who we don't have too many like in the English Premiership.''

Source: Northern_Echo