Sunderland failed to win what their manager had called a “must-win” game at Upton Park yet Vito Mannone pointed to the 0-0 draw with West Ham United as a model performance.
The Black Cats dominated Saturday’s game, producing what the goalkeeper saw as one of his team’s best performances this season.
Despite Gustavo Poyet’s pre-match words, Mannone insisted by the end of this week they might look back on it as a good result.
With both teams looking woefully short up front, Sunderland had to settle for a second successive no-score draw away from home.
Nevertheless, Mannone pointed to the number of chances created – the best hit against the crossbar from Phil Bardsley in the first half – as cause for optimism.
The Italian said: “We’ve been really unlucky. It was probably been one of our best performances so far.
“We looked solid at the back and we created chances – the fact we had 19 shots tells you something.
“Their goalkeeper (Jussi Jaaskelainen) made two decent saves and the crossbar didn’t help us.
“We were a bit unlucky but that’s the way to play games. We have to do it week in, week out, the manager just said that.”
Even with Fulham and Crystal Palace losing, the Black Cats were unable to cut the five-point gap to safety and failing to beat a West Ham team who have scored in only four of their eight Premier League matches this season represented a missed opportunity.
The harsh reality is Sunderland are even more lightweight away from home than a Hammers side missing the injured Andy Carroll are on their own turf.
Incredibly, the Wearsiders have not scored on opposition territory since August.
Mannone pointed out it was not for a lack of ambition.
The former Arsenal player added: “We came here to win the game and you could tell that.
“If it was one team of the two who deserved to win I think it was us.
“It’s a positive point but nothing has been done. I’ve said for the past few weeks we need to keep going in every game and see where we are in January.
“Now we have another difficult game at home (Norwich City are the next Premier League visitors to the Stadium of Light) but if we take the three points people will look back and say this was a good point.”
As well as being without former Newcastle United striker Carroll and ex-Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing, Sam Allardyce’s side were missing the suspended Kevin Nolan, so their lack of cutting edge was hardly surprising.
Sunderland, by contrast, had all their main strikers – Jozy Altidore, Fabio Borini and substitute Steven Fletcher – on the pitch at some point, plus playmaker Emanuele Giaccherini and Adam Johnson, as well as Ki Sung-Yeung in a more advanced role.
Yet by far their most threatening-looking player was left-back Bardsley, substituted taking an 82nd-minute kick to the head.
Further increasing the frustration at Sunderland’s lack of away goals is the fact in between the blanks at Aston Villa and West Ham they scored three goals at home to Chelsea.
Mannone said: “We did the right things, we played an intensive game.
“We wanted to be very solid but it was difficult against Chelsea because they’re top opponents. This was a different type of game for us.
“I think if we can play like we did at West Ham we’re going to start winning games away from home.
“I’m pretty confident. We had 19 shots, if it was five or six that’s different. Nineteen! If Phil Bardsley’s shot had hit the crossbar and gone in we would be here talking about three points.”