Wickham: Strikers must deliver

The Black Cats have managed only 23 goals in their 28 Premier League this season, a return which has left them perched perilously close to the relegation zone.

And Sunderland???s strikers have contributed just nine of those goals, a record Wickham insists must improve if the team are to avoid a second successive scramble for top-flight survival.

“I wouldn’t say the criticism of the strikers is unfair,??? Wickham told the Northern Echo.

“Strikers are going to get the most at any club because they are the money-makers, they are the ones that the fans are relying on to score the goals. That’s where the criticism can come.

“Chances come and you do need to put them away. We are creating chances. The way we set up, we are setting up to attack at times when we get the ball. We do try to break as quickly as we can when we get the ball.

“We have done it in games but we have to get more consistent with it and get in to the box more. We will climb away from the rest of the group down there if we can start to put our chances away.”

Sunderland face Aston Villa – the only Premier League club to have scored fewer goals with just 15 to date – at the Stadium of Light on Saturday with three points crucial for both sides.

Villa, who ended a run of seven successive league defeats with a 2-1 home victory over West Brom on March 3, currently sit three points clear of the bottom three with their hosts a point better off.