David Moyes says Sunderland will soon need to recreate the “miracles” of their past if they are to escape relegation from the Premier League.
A 1-0 defeat at Watford on Saturday left Moyes’ men seven points from safety with nine games remaining.
Sunderland have, of course, been there before, not least in 2014 when they were seven adrift with six matches left under Gus Poyet and survived.
But with a trip to rejuvenated champions Leicester on Tuesday followed by a visit from Manchester United, they could soon find themselves in a similar hole.
“I don’t know about miracles, but we know they happen and it’s happened a couple of times recently to Sunderland,” said Black Cats boss Moyes.
“They’ve been here before – I’ve not been here before, it’s new to me – but hopefully people at the club know exactly what it’s like.
“I’ve been told we were seven points behind with six games left before, and if you can do it from that position you can do it from any.
“We need to keep going and keep trying to pick up the points. But we’re not playing well enough, I’m not kidding anyone on. We need to play better.”
Not for the first time this season, goalkeeper Jordan Pickford kept Sunderland in the game with some fine saves, the pick of the bunch when he scooped Abdoulaye Doucoure’s drive over the crossbar.
“He’s a top, top young keeper and he’s now beginning to look like a top senior keeper,” added Moyes.
“He made one top save in the first half, and more importantly he had a real command of his penalty box.
“Watford are one of the biggest teams in the league but we defended set-pieces really well – apart from one.”
That one set-piece arrived in the 59th minute when Stefano Okaka met Tom Cleverley’s corner with a header which Fabio Borini inadvertently nodded on to his own crossbar.
The ball flew out to Craig Cathcart, who headed it back across goal for Miguel Britos to nod in his first goal for the Hornets at the far post.
A first win in five eased any fears Watford might have had of being dragged into trouble – not that their manager Walter Mazzarri was worried.
“I understand somebody who doesn’t work inside football could see it that way, but I never thought Watford were near the relegation zone,” said the Italian.
“We lost our last game to Crystal Palace – but then today they beat Chelsea! We can play against any team and I think we have always been far away from the relegation zone.
“The teams below us won so we still have to think about each game, and play as we did today. If we play like that we will be safe.”