JACK RODWELL insists next week’s visit of Aston Villa is now “even bigger” than last night’s clash at Hull after the midfielder rescued an unlikely point for Sunderland.
Rodwell’s second half leveller secured a 1-1 draw for Sunderland at the KC Stadium, despite a woeful opening 45 minutes from the Black Cats, when Gus Poyet was sent to the stands and involved in an ugly touchline confrontation with Steve Bruce.
We’re all around it fighting. There’s a lot of teams there. We just need to keep chipping away and putting points on the board.
While Sunderland had hoped to register only a second Premier League victory of 2015, a draw at least creates a four-point buffer with the drop zone, albeit both Burnley and QPR could narrow the gap tonight.
But Rodwell says it was crucial that Sunderland avoided defeat against Hull, with another of their fellow strugglers, Villa – 2-1 winners over West Brom last night – coming to the Stadium of Light in 12 days time.
Rodwell said: “Villa is even bigger (than Hull). Every game now is a cup final, although I know that’s a cliché.
“We’re all around it fighting. There’s a lot of teams there. We just need to keep chipping away and putting points on the board.
“Last night could have ended in defeat, which would have been the end of the world.
“But we came away with one.
“The last 10 games of the season now is the hardest stretch. Every game is vital and we need as many points as we can.
“If you don’t lose them, that’s a bonus. We went for three points, came away with one, so it’s not the end of the world.”
Rodwell was used in an unnatural left-sided midfield role during an abysmal first half display from Sunderland.
But the £10m man moved into more familiar surroundings in the middle of the park after the break, with the introduction of substitutes Patrick van Aanholt and Ricky Alvarez giving Sunderland a far better shape.
It was van Aanholt who made the equaliser, with Rodwell heading home the Dutchman’s cross from a yard out, for his third goal in Sunderland colours.
“We didn’t have much width in the first half,” said Rodwell.
“I started off from the left, but it’s not really my natural position, so I wasn’t hugging the touchline.
“We struggled to play and I struggled to get on the ball a bit. It was frustrating.
“But second half, I was told to play more inside and when Patrick came on with the width, it helped us all really.
“First half, we didn’t do too well and knew we had to change things, but I think second half, when Pat came on and Ricky came on, it gave a bit of life to us.
“We played a lot more in there final third, which is what we needed to do really.
“We could have won it at the end of the day as well.”
It was Rodwell’s first appearance for a month after a series of niggling injuries, yet the 23-year-old lasted the full 90 minutes and ended the game strongly, buoyed by the confidence-boost of a goal.
“The last few weeks I’ve had a couple of niggling injuries, nothing serious, but a calf and groin,” he added.
“Back-to-back it gets frustrating because I want to play.
“But it’s good to be back and to get the goal as well.”