Bruce bemoans Cats' failings
A RELIEVED Steve Bruce last night admitted Asamoah Gyan's fortuitous late equaliser against Newcastle had epitomised the striker's display, and his side's overall performance, in the Wear-Tyne derby. Sunderland claimed a 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light when Gyan scored his sixth Premier League goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time, even though he knew precious little about the strike. Steve Harper saved Phil Bardsley's long-range effort, but the ball rebounded off Gyan and looped high into the roof of the net. The scruffiness of the strike summed up Sunderland's afternoon, with the Black Cats under-performing for the second North-East derby in a row, and was also in keeping with the goalscorer's rather untidy performance. I thought the goal summed his (Gyan's) afternoon up, said Bruce, who had seen Kevin Nolan break the deadlock with a 52nd-minute back-heel. It hit off his chest and went five yards away from him! I feel better than I did three months ago (when Sunderland suffered a 5-1 defeat at St James' Park), but I'm still a bit disappointed because we haven't played anywhere near the level I've seen us play all season. We've been caught up in the occasion again. I thought we played for about half-an-hour in the first half, but even then if we had been a bit more composed with the final ball, we would probably have done better. Once Newcastle scored, it became a difficult afternoon for us. We pride ourselves on getting the ball and playing, but we didn't do that. We went back to front far too much, and we haven't got the personnel to play that way. In the build up to yesterday's game, Bruce had talked about learning lessons from October's defeat on Tyneside. Back then, the Black Cats boss had highlighted a lack of experience and admitted his players had frozen amid the intensity and passion of a North-East derby. A similar thing appeared to happen again, with Newcastle's players reproducing the form they have displayed in many of their better performances this season, while their opponents under-performed dramatically once more. Newcastle have better experience than we have, said Bruce. I think that showed at times, but the experience of playing here and in the other game a few months ago can only stand our young lads in good stead as we look to move forward. As I've said repeatedly, if you play in a derby game, you have to win the fight. But you also have to take part in the football side of the game and unfortunately I don't really think we did that. We didn't pass the ball anywhere near as well as we can do. Sunderland were without six senior players yesterday, and Lee Cattermole and John Mensah were particularly badly missed as the home side failed to stamp their authority on proceedings. Bruce, who laughed off Sunday newspaper reports linking him with former Newcastle striker Michael Owen, has been tracking a number of players during the transfer window, but despite yesterday's draw following hot on the heels of an FA Cup defeat to Notts County, he is not anticipating a flurry of activity before January 31. In the build up to the game, I saw (John) Mensah, (Lee) Cattermole, (Michael) Turner, (Danny) Welbeck, (Fraizer) Campbell and (David) Meyler all going round and wishing the rest of the team 'Good luck', said Bruce. That's six very important players for us, who are missing. Hopefully, a fair few will be back soon, and I'm very happy with the squad we have at the moment. Unless there's something like a loan signing from abroad, I can't envisage myself doing too much business.
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