Sam Allardyce has conceded Crystal Palace were consumed by “fear” throughout their 4-0 home defeat by Sunderland in the Premier League.
The Eagles’ worst display of the season led to the concession of three goals in the seven minutes leading up to half-time. A fine strike from Didier Ndong and two finishes from Jermain Defoe gave Sunderland complete control after Lamine Kone’s had given them a 10th-minute lead, leaving Palace in 19th and level with their 20th-placed visitors’ points total of 19.
It was noticeable how quickly the confidence built from Tuesday’s 2-0 win at Bournemouth vanished after Kone put Sunderland ahead, and equally how they collapsed when Ndong’s 43rd-minute finish left Palace 2-0 down.
Victory could have taken Palace out of the relegation zone and built a six-point gap over their visitors – but defeat has left them at their greatest risk of relegation since they were promoted in 2013 and again the performance highlighted their inability to beat teams around them.
“It was all about fear when the first goal went in,” said Allardyce, who impressed in inspiring Sunderland to survival last season.
“The fear overtook them and they lost control. Particularly when you go a goal down.
“Once fear takes over, the mind gets confused and we saw the players doing a lot of stuff we didn’t envisage. The frailty showed in their defending in the first half, and the four goals.
“The players are struggling in their home form. I’ve got to get rid of that fear and get them playing much, much better.
“I saw it against Swansea and again (against Sunderland). Two teams below us: we haven’t performed anything near where we know we can, and lost both.
“I think we’re bottom of the league in home points gained, and ninth in the league from points gained away from home.
“It’s not down to the fans; the fans don’t place them under a huge amount of pressure, compared to other clubs I’ve managed. They want to support and get behind them.
“I apologise to them for coming and seeing what they saw in that first half.”
The former West Ham and Newcastle manager was also asked if he had substituted Damien Delaney, who he replaced with Andros Townsend for the second half, as a result of the defender being confronted by an angry supporter at half-time.
“No, not really, no,” he responded. “We played a very good game with that system and team at Bournemouth, so I had to change the system to try and help the players get better.
“At least in the second half we showed a bit of fighting spirit, but Sunderland had been gifted four goals and could just sit back and frustrate us.”