Sam Allardyce says Sunderland are now performing consistently and have simply not picked up the points they have deserved from recent games.
has admitted he cannot ask much more of his Sunderland players as they attempt to drag themselves out of Barclays Premier League relegation trouble yet again.
The Black Cats entertain West Brom at the Stadium of Light on Saturday unbeaten in three games, but knowing the last two – 1-1 away draws at Southampton and Newcastle – could have been victories.
Those four extra points would have lifted the club two clear of the drop zone rather than two adrift and given them a greater chance of survival, and the late equalisers they have conceded could yet prove hugely costly.
Manager Allardyce, who goes head-to-head with old foe Tony Pulis this weekend, said: “I’m struggling to ask the players to perform better, really. I can’t ask them to perform too much better.
“They’ve been performing consistently over the last few games, so our consistent level of performance is there, it just hasn’t brought the wins that we should have achieved.
“I have still got to try to mentally work on that side of it for the players and hope they can take it on to the pitch and keep performing the way they are, keep getting in front, keep scoring the first goal and try to make sure we can see it out for a win, certainly starting against Tony’s team on Saturday and see if we can put a good performance in with a victory at the end of it.”
Allardyce’s first game in charge ended in a controversial 1-0 defeat by the Baggies at the Hawthorns in October on a day when he firmly believed the winning goal should have been ruled out for a foul on keeper Costel Pantilimon.
He believes significant progress has been made since, but knows there is still much hard work to be done.
He said: “Technically, tactically and physically we are much, much better than we were at that stage. Improvement-wise, we have done (improved), but we haven’t gathered enough points.
“The points we should have gained, we should have been looking at one or two wins maximum now to be safe. Now we are still looking at four out of eight to be absolutely certain.”
Just what the future holds for Sunderland will be revealed over the final eight games of the campaign, but Allardyce is not making any hard and fast decisions on his own situation just yet.
He said: “I wouldn’t know what I would do until such time as it is mathematically impossible for us to stay up or continue our position in the Premier League.
“We would talk about pre-season in a rough schedule – in other words, pencil it in – that has to be done. But personally and players-wise, not until we finally find out what our fate is one way or the other.”