Wickham: Sunderland must improve at home

Striker Connor Wickham has warned Sunderland they have to start to make home advantage count if they are to haul themselves out of the relegation mire.

Connor Wickham, Sunderland

The Black Cats turned in a spirited display as they lost 2-1 at high-flying Liverpool on Wednesday evening to suggest once again that they do have it within their powers to escape the drop.

However, they have won just one of their last eight Barclays Premier League fixtures at the Stadium of Light and with their remaining four away games taking them to Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United, that is a situation which is going to have to change, and fast.

Gus Poyet's men host West Ham on Monday looking for a first win in seven attempts in all competitions, and Wickham admits they have to turn around their home form.

He said: "We are going to have to, we haven't got a choice. We need to start picking up points.

"We need to start looking at the reality now that we need to start picking up points. Scrappy points or good points, we just need to get the points on the board.

"It's up to us to start performing against not just the big teams, but the teams in and around us and start picking up points."

Goals, or more accurately, the lack of them, have been Sunderland's most pressing concern for much of the campaign to date.

Substitute Ki Sung-yueng's header at Anfield was their first in four games and just their fourth in the eight outings they have had since the 3-0 derby victory at Newcastle on February 1.

That return, coupled with Steven Fletcher's ankle injury, prompted Poyet to recall 20-year-old Wickham from his loan spell at Leeds, and he was thrown straight into the starting line-up at Liverpool alongside the misfiring Jozy Altidore.

Loan signing Fabio Borini, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Saturday, was ineligible to play against his parent club in midweek, but will return to the fold on Monday to leave the manager facing a big decision.

But England Under-21 international Wickham is ready to play his part if called upon.

The £8.1million signing said: "That's why I came back, that's why I wanted to come back. That's what I have said all along: I want to play football and that's what the aim is to do."

Poyet needs his frontmen to belatedly find their touch in front of goal with midfielder Adam Johnson's seven league goals to date matching the total contribution of Fletcher, Altidore, Borini and Ignacio Scocco with Wickham having spent much of the season out on loan.

Altidore in particular has found the going tough since his £6.5million summer switch from AZ Alkmaar, but Poyet insists the failings are collective.

He said: "Apart from Jonno, who has scored seven, the rest, nobody has scored, so it's a team problem and he is part of it because he is a striker and he is a striker we got in the summer.

"Sometimes we look for excuses for a few players, but we are not looking for any for Jozy.

"For me, it's one of the most difficult parts. There are different ways to be at the bottom.

"It's either because you cannot defend and you concede too many goals, or because you don't score enough, sometimes both.

"When you have both, you are down, you go down for sure. If you can cope with one of them, sometimes you have got a chance.

"We had that balance in January in a few games, now it looks like we have lost it a little bit. We are conceding a few and we are not scoring enough, so we need to make sure that the balance comes the other way around and we score more and we don't concede many."

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