Jack Rodwell is not suffering from a crisis of confidence, despite his failure to convert two glorious opportunities at West Ham, believes boss Sam Allardyce.
Substitute Rodwell could – and should – have drawn Sunderland level at Upton Park after a pair of gilt-edged opportunities went begging.
First, Rodwell saw an effort 10 yards out saved by Hammers keeper Adrian, before the ex-Manchester City man was penalised for controlling the ball with his hand on the rebound.
And then he was denied by an last-gasp intervention from Sam Byram, just as he let fly after an error from the Hammers full-back.
But Rodwell did make a positive contribution to the attacking threat after replacing Lee Cattermole, with the midfield boasting a much better balance when the £10million man was on the pitch.
“I wouldn’t have thought Jack is short on confidence based on the way he played,” said Sunderland boss Allardyce. “He did actually score one, but it hit him on the hand. I’m not so sure that was a deliberate handball.
“Today, you don’t know what a deliberate handball is though! The referees have a completely different view to what the rules say.
“How Jack Rodwell could have got his arm out the way there, I don’t know.
“But that’s besides the point. It wasn’t given.
“We missed too many chances, irrespective of what happened from the referee.
“We missed too many to win the game, not just draw it.”
The 1-0 defeat was starkly reminiscent of the loss to Manchester City earlier in the month, and that played on Allardyce’s mind as he reflected on the game.
He added: “We’ve got to hold our nerve now (in the relegation battle). We’ve got to be big enough and brave enough.
“If we play at this level, we will win games. We’ve got to continue like this, but my worry is that two of our best performances – Man City and West Ham – we’ve got no points.”