Bruce ready for relegation scrap

BY foxsports • April 17, 2011

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce accepts his side are in the thick of a relegation battle after being beaten 2-0 at his former club Birmingham.

Goals from Sebastian Larsson and Craig Gardner lifted City above the injury-hit Black Cats. The Wearsiders have now taken one point from the last nine games after being contenders for a European spot in January.

Bruce said: "There have been a few times recently when I have said the performance has not been good enough.

"But I could not ask any more from a young, makeshift side today.

"We have to try and take the positives out of today and if we play like that, we can still turn the season around and finish with a flourish.

"We are in it (a relegation battle), no question about it. There are 10 teams in it and we are one of them.

"The lads know we have not got enough points. We have one point from nine games and we've got to try and arrest that slump."

Bruce added: "We've now got back-to-back home games with Wigan and Fulham so it is an opportunity to put things right.

"Maybe 41 points will be enough to stay up. One win might do it. I think so."

Black Cats keeper Simon Mignolet was at fault for the first goal from Larsson.

Bruce said: "You can't legislate for individual errors. The keeper has been excellent but will be disappointed with that error.

"The first goal was an awful one to give away and, apart from the two goals, I can't remember Birmingham creating any chances."

Blues have now taken seven points from three games after recovering from the hangover of their Carling Cup triumph over Arsenal.

City manager Alex McLeish said: "We lost five or six players after the final through injury and when that happens, it becomes tough.

"The expectancy levels were there because of the cup win.

"Mentally we suffered after that triumph with a lot of players not used to winning trophies. But the players have regrouped and we have got some experienced bodies back.

"This was a big win for us."

Larsson, whose contract runs out this summer, capped his 100th Premier League appearance with the opener after a mix-up between Phil Bardsley and Mignolet.

McLeish said: "He deserves credit because he gambled on chasing down what looked like a lost cause.

"If you don't buy a ticket, you don't win the raffle and Seb got his reward for gambling."

Birmingham are now on 38 points but McLeish is taking nothing for granted in the battle to stay up.

He said: "I'm not saying we are safe but it is better than being on 35 points.

"We did our jobs. We were under pressure as the home team and we responded to that."