MICHAEL Turner hopes his partnership with John O’Shea can avoid Sunderland’s central defensive curse after registering a fourth clean sheet in eight together.
Sunderland’s back-line proved an insurmountable barrier for Carling Cup winners Liverpool on Saturday as a first win in four Premier League outings moved Martin O’Neill’s men back into the top half of the table – just two points behind the Reds.
Injuries and suspensions have seen the Black Cats deploy six different combinations at centre-half this season after first-choice pairing Turner and Titus Bramble were restricted to just eight outings together last time around.
But after becoming Sunderland’s longest-running double act this year, conceding just seven times in eight games – four of which were at West Brom, Turner believes his partnership with O’Shea is beginning to blossom.
Turner told the Gazette: “It’s key for the team to get a clean sheet against a team like Liverpool.
“John’s a great player to play alongside. He’s very calm and a great influence to the other boys.
“As the weeks have gone by, we’ve got more and more comfortable together. Ever since I’ve been at this football club, it’s been chop and change at centre-half.
“I had a few games with Titus last year, but then I got injured. It’s just one of those things that you have to deal with.
“But we’ve had a run of games together now and hopefully we can keep it going.”
Nicklas Bendtner’s second in as many games proved to be sufficient to get the better of Kenny Dalglish’s side, who lumbered to get back on level terms without ever seriously testing Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet.
After taking just a point from the previous three league games, victory provided Sunderland with the perfect platform for next weekend’s FA Cup quarter final clash with Liverpool’s Merseyside neighbours Everton, who extended their unbeaten run to nine by beating third-placed Spurs.
Turner added: “We feel we’ve been playing well, but one draw in the last three obviously wasn’t really reflecting that. We’re pleased to get a big three points.
“When we got the first goal, we were always confident of going on from there and winning it.
“Liverpool tried to play football, but on that pitch, it was always going to be difficult to do that.
“It was a bit of a scrap all the way through the second half, but thankfully we held on.
“We’ll look forward to the cup game now, it’s a big game for the club and all the players.
“We need to be 100 per cent committed to get through to the next round.
“It’s an absolutely huge game, one that we’re all determined to get through in.
“It’s everyone’s aim – the quarter-final of the FA Cup with the chance to get through to Wembley.
“Everton have picked up some brilliant results at home, and we know it will be a difficult one.
“On paper, it looks like a good one, and we’re all looking forward to it for sure.”