Gustavo Poyet has called on one of his players to follow Adam Johnson’s lead and perform at the peak of their powers to turn good displays into wins.
Sunderland gave a wholehearted display at home to Crystal Palace but while they outplayed their relegation rivals, the 0-0 draw laid bare their deficiencies.
The Black Cats have lost momentum since Johnson started 2014 with a purple patch, leaving Poyet hoping another of his players can hit a similar vein of form.
“What’s missing is Jonno in January, a player who is going to be player of the month and keep us up,” he said. “That’s what we need now.
“If we get a player of the month in April – I can’t say March now, because we’re in the middle of the month – then I’m telling you that we’ll stay up. That’s what we need. I’m not asking them as a form of criticism. It’s about standing up.
“We’ve conceded four, three and three goals (in the previous three games). On Saturday we didn’t concede. How many people will say we kept a clean sheet, that’s a positive?
“The idea was to win, but we tried. I thought the goal was coming sooner or later, because it was all about us. People think maybe in a break, with one chance the opposition will score, but I’m still believing in God, because if they score and we lose it would be a shame.
“I think we’ve got that player, but listen – with all respect to everybody – this is why we are where we are. If we had a player like that for six months we would be 10th or ninth. But it’s not easy. There is tension.
“Palace came here with a plan of just defending, but that’s fine, you need to play the game.”
Fabio Borini hit the bar for Sunderland but for all their possession and chances, they forced Julian Speroni into just two saves. Palace managed five shots on target despite rarely threatening.
There were a few boos at full-time but, perhaps worryingly, Poyet claimed he got all he could from his players.
“I imagine plenty of people will be very, very frustrated with that result, but I know the players and I know how much I can ask from them and they gave me everything,” he said.
“Would I like someone to do something spectacular and score a goal? Yes, but at the moment that’s not happening here, so the only thing I can ask is that they train well, prepare well, go on the pitch and give everything they’ve got with their own ability – Ki (Sung-Yueng) driving with the ball, trying to open the spaces, Jonno dribbling and creating opportunities for the rest, Fletch (Steven Fletcher) or Jozy (Altidore) or Fabio being in the box, trying to finish, then we’re working on the set-plays. We’re trying.
“Don’t try and look for something that we’re not.
“I’m not saying we were at our best, because we’ve played better than that, but the opposition was different.
“We are where we are and we just need to make sure that we get that win that gives you that extra bit of confidence to go and win two or three. I can’t ask for more.”
Striker Fletcher will be sent for a scan on the ankle he twisted in the first half, leading to his substitution during the interval.