Sunderland on the right track – Wickham

Connor Wickham.
Connor Wickham.

CONNOR WICKHAM says Sunderland’s points tally compared to 12 months ago demonstrates their progress, despite the failure to build on derby success.

Sunderland lie three points above the relegation zone heading into Saturday’s visit of Liverpool after the Black Cats have registered just a solitary point since last month’s fourth successive derby victory over Newcastle United.

The failure to use the Tyne-Wear derby win as a platform in the three subsequent games has prompted frustration both on the terraces and in the dressing room at a missed opportunity.

But forward Wickham believes Sunderland have to look at the bigger picture, with Gus Poyet’s men six points better off than they were at the same stage last season.

“The Hull game (Boxing Day’s 3-1 defeat) was disappointing and we could have picked up more points over Christmas,” said Wickham.

“But we’re not in the same situation we were last year. We’re miles ahead compared to last season ,which is a big positive.

“It’s something we can use going forwards, because now it’s about getting up that table and killing games off as soon as we can.

“It’s been a hectic schedule, particularly with a lighter squad than usual with injuries.

“I was suspended for one of the games too, so it’s not ideal.

“But I think we’ve adapted well and Hull was probably the only disappointment over Christmas.

“The schedule goes pretty much back to normal now, so hopefully we can have some better luck in the New Year.”

Last month’s stalemate at Liverpool was a case in point of a missed opportunity for Sunderland after a dreadful performance from Brendan Rodgers’ side prior to the second-half introduction of Steven Gerrard.

But Wickham says Sunderland have a chance to put that right on Saturday lunchtime, with Liverpool seven points adrift of the Champions League places after the summer exit of Luis Suarez and injury to Daniel Sturridge.

“Maybe people can say Liverpool aren’t the team they were last year. They’re missing players,” said the 21-year-old.

“We probably should have taken three points from Anfield not so long ago.

“Now it’s down to us to do that on our ground this time.”

However, Sunderland will need to improve their goal threat if they are to record only a fourth Premier League win of the campaign this weekend.

Sunderland have averaged less than a goal per game so far this season – with eight of the 18 coming from Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson.

“Sometimes, the way we’re set up, maybe if we can get someone forward a bit quicker so the striker is not isolated, it would make it easier,” added Wickham.

“But we are how we’re playing at the minute.

“It’s up to the team to adapt and be fitter and stronger and deal with who we’re playing against.

“It’s not easy for Fletch up there alone because the defenders are strong and quick these days, but the chances will come.”