Nosworthy wants all-round improvement

The Black Cats head for Blackburn on Monday having won just one of

their last 10 Premier League games and collected only six points in

the process. Eighteen of their haul of 22 points to date have been

secured at the Stadium of Light and they have lost seven of their

nine away games to date, including each of the last five. However,

they are without a win anywhere in six league games and the home

form that propelled them into the upper reaches of the table during

the early months of the campaign has deserted them. Just as they

had done against struggling Portsmouth a fortnight earlier, the

Black Cats conceded a late equaliser against Everton on Boxing Day

and, with Aston Villa having left Wearside in between with all

three points, Steve Bruce’s men find themselves marooned in

mid-table and in danger of being caught by the chasing pack.

Nosworthy, who could find himself thrust back into the team at

Ewood Park amid a fresh selection crisis, admits Sunderland need to

be more clinical in both penalty areas if they are to arrest their

decline. He said: “It’s a bit of both – it’s being ruthless in

front of goal and defending as a team, as a whole. “You can’t

always rely on the boys up front to be putting away loads of goals

to ease the pressure on us. “Sometimes, we have to take a 1-0,

whether it be home or away and, if it gets ugly, just make it ugly

as long as we get the result we need, which is three points.” Only

four points separated Sunderland in 10th place from West Ham in

17th after yesterday’s round of fixtures, and Bruce knows just how

difficult it will be to improve upon that situation at Blackburn.

Sam Allardyce’s side returned from their trip to Wigan with a 1-1

draw and will be in no mood to allow the Black Cats to bring an end

to their dreadful run of results on the road. Bruce said: “The

Premier League, in my experience of it, whoever you go to on their

own ground, you have got to do very well, and it will be no

different at Blackburn on Monday. “But we have got to start

somewhere and I am convinced we can be better. “I am sure we can be

better away from home in the second half [of the season]. Let’s

hope we can start against Blackburn on Monday.” But, if Sunderland

are finally to give their travelling fans something to shout about,

they will have to do so in testing circumstances. With Michael

Turner suspended for four games and Anton Ferdinand recovering from

an ankle injury, Bruce’s defensive resources were stretched further

on Saturday when the impressive John Mensah damaged a hamstring.

The Ghana international is expected to miss the Blackburn game and

will then head off on African Nations Cup duty. Bruce said: “That’s

what the Premier League is, unfortunately. We have struggled with

that in the last few weeks but that’s what it is. “We are going to

have to get on with it and go again.” Mensah’s injury will leave

only Paraguay international Paulo da Silva and Nosworthy to fill

the two central defensive berths. Bruce has problems elsewhere,

too, with midfielder Lee Cattermole having picked up a hamstring

injury in training on Christmas Day only two games into his

comeback from medial ligament damage, while Kieran Richardson sat

out with a calf problem. Striker Kenwyne Jones ended the game with

a calf injury, which will be assessed on Sunday. It was he who

paved the way for Sunderland to take the lead against Everton,

strike partner Darren Bent heading home his cross to claim his 11th

goal of the season, only for Marouane Fellaini to snatch a deserved

draw with an 85th-minute equaliser.