Ferdinand expects more of the same
IT might have been one of the least entertaining afternoons of the season, but Anton Ferdinand has warned Sunderland supporters that Sunday's featureless encounter with Fulham could become the norm in the final two months of the campaign. There were just six shots on target from either side as the Black Cats ground out their fourth Premier League home draw in succession, and the final whistle at the Stadium of Light was greeted by a chorus of boos for the third time in a month. With Bolton also involved in the relegation scrap, next Tuesday's home game with the Trotters hardly looks like being a feast of attacking football. But with points at a premium in the bottom half of the table, Ferdinand claims that the ability to grind out results could be crucial. I think it's probably inevitable that there's going to be some more tight games, said the defender, who filled in at left-back as the Black Cats claimed only their fifth Premier League clean sheet of the season. Everything's so close at the bottom that a goal here or there can make a huge amount of difference. Some games are open, some games aren't, and the more important the match towards the end of the season, the more you expect a tight and scrappy affair. Sunday's game obviously wasn't the most open, and there weren't many chances either, but I don't think that's going to be an anomaly. We gained a point, and that could be very important. The point has lifted Sunderland three points clear of the bottom three, with three clubs separating them from the relegation zone. With 11 games of last season to play, the Black Cats boasted 31 points, yet they still went into the final game of the campaign with their Premier League place in jeopardy. This time around, they are on 27 points at the same stage of the season, so while the bottom half of the table is exceptionally congested, it is hard to imagine them not featuring in a fully-blown relegation fight. It would be naïve to say that we're not in a relegation scrap, admitted Ferdinand. But the league is so tight that a couple of results either way can make a massive amount of difference. If we win a couple of games, we could easily be back in the top ten. We just have to concentrate on ourselves and not worry about what's going on below or above us. No one is mentioning the R' word around here, and we don't want to start having to talk about it. We don't want to go through what we put the fans through last year. We want to be home and dry before the final two or three games of the season. That appears unlikely, unless Steve Bruce is able to engineer a marked improvement in the club's next three matches, which are all at home. After Sunderland have faced Bolton, Manchester City and Birmingham, five of their remaining eight matches will be away, and Sunderland have not won on their travels since they triumphed at the Reebok Stadium on the opening weekend of the season. The pressure on their next three home games is intense, but Ferdinand insists that he, for one, is capable of handling everything hurled in his direction. I can only speak for myself, he said. But I don't get affected by pressure. I don't think I ever lack confidence because of the pressure of the game or from the fans. It's not in my character to be nervous in that kind of situation. It's hard when you're the home team and the expectations are so large, but I like to think I'm capable of dealing with it. If you can't deal with it, you shouldn't be here. John Mensah should be fit for next Tuesday despite being forced off on Sunday.
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