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Poyet aware of the task he faces at Sunderland
Full-time: Sunderland 1 Tottenham 2
SUNDERLAND'S dressing room witnessed a different side to Gus Poyet on Saturday. It might not have been the first defeat he has had to endure since taking over at the Stadium of Light in October, but it felt the most damaging.
In suffering the fifth loss of his first eight Premier League matches in charge, Poyet is well aware of the situation he faces. If he did not realise the full extent before, he does now.
This latest reversal did not come with the same sort of collapse which he witnessed at Swansea in his opening game. Given the improvements since that trip to South Wales, however, it is easy to understand why he was so despondent.
Tottenham have been struggling to pose a threat to Premier League defences and Poyet will have held high hopes of a repeat of the performances which earned him his two wins over Newcastle and Manchester City on Wearside.
For the opening 37 minutes things could not have gone more to plan. Jozy Altidore was operating well in the hole behind lone striker Steven Fletcher and the Black Cats looked quite dangerous.
Then Adam Johnson powered in his first Premier League goal since April when goalkeeper Hugo Lloris poorly dealt with Ondrej Celustka's deep cross eight minutes before the break. A much-needed Sunderland win looked on the cards.
But Paulinho worked his way ahead of Phil Bardsley to meet Nacer Chadli's volley back across goal from Kyle Walker's free-kick to level things up six minutes later. Sunderland suddenly lost their way.
Moments after half-time Tottenham took the lead. John O'Shea turning Moussa Dembele's cross beyond Vito Mannone after the midfielder had darted cheaply past Jack Colback.
After that Spurs, who hit the post twice through Jermain Defoe as well as many other opportunities, could have had a few more before Sunderland eventually started to threaten an equaliser at the opposite end.
The fact Tottenham, who moved to within two points of a top four place despite scoring just 15 goals in as many games this season, never added a third did not matter to Poyet. He had seen enough and demanded immediate improvements from his players ahead of an “absolutely massive” trip to West Ham next weekend.
Johnson is aware of the precarious situation facing Sunderland. The goalscorer is adamant, though, preserving top-flight status can be achieved after the trip to Upton Park.
“West Ham is definitely not a must-win game,” he said. “Next year we have got the bottom 12 teams to come here, so I wouldn't label that particular game as must-win.
“It's a big game. You see all these other teams, Crystal Palace, Stoke, playing teams around them at home, we have got that all to come.
“We have played the top eight at home in a row. We have done OK in some of those games. We have not come out with the points we needed but we just need to go in to the next games and get as many points as we can against the teams around us.
“For everybody who is writing us off at the moment, we have a lot more winnable games coming up than we have had in the last few weeks and we have to look at the positive side.
“Hopefully we will get a good result next week and if we can pick up a good couple of results over the Christmas period we can pick up. It's not even the turn of the year yet.”
Sunderland could have had a penalty. Sandro clearly handled Seb Larsson's corner when Tottenham led 2-1. There was not a member of the dressing room looking for excuses afterwards, though.
“We have had a few iffy decisions and a few unlucky goals but we have to keep going. We have to go in to the next game and hopefully pick up points,” said Johnson.
“I'm not sure if it was a penalty. The bench went up and the fourth official turned away. It was one of those decisions that we can't be looking at to be getting us points. We need to be doing more and playing better to deserve the points.”
Sunderland are trying to play better football under Poyet and Johnson insists the positive vibes the new boss has created will continue despite the latest set-back leaving them five points adrift of fourth-bottom West Ham.
Johnson said: “The gaffer has come in and I think he has been brilliant. Who knows what would have happened if we'd have had him at the start of the season.
“You have got to take those kind of things as a positive. We were not doing too badly in the form table until the last two games. You have to take positives from that.”
Having won just four of their previous 30 Premier League fixtures, Sunderland need to find positives from somewhere.
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