The Black Cats boss is looking to complete the double of Championship rivals Hull City tonight
Sunderland manager Michael Beale wants to see a strong response from his side against Hull City tonight following their defeat to Ipswich Town last weekend – and that includes being more ruthless with their chances.
This evening, the two contenders for the playoffs square off in front of the Wearside TV cameras. Both are hoping for some consistency in the second half of the season. The Black Cats were knocked out of the top six after their early lead at Ipswich Town was canceled, while City lost their FA Cup rematch against Birmingham in injury time on Tuesday night after losing at home to Norwich City.
In his brief time in charge, Beale has already seen his team upset Hull, winning on Boxing Day in Humberside thanks to a goal from Jack Clarke. However, the new Sunderland manager has not had an easy first month on Wearside, as evidenced by the loss to Ipswich and the FA Cup exit on derby day.
In addition, the Black Cats manager wants his team to exhibit more ruthlessness in front of goal, which has been lacking all season.
“It’s a big game, but it’s important we dust ourselves down (at home) and bounce back strongly,” Beale confessed. “It’s a team we’ve played recently and beat, and it’s important we get back to winning ways at home.
“We’re not ruthless enough in the final third, but if you can’t win it, don’t lose the game, and don’t lose it like that. It’s so frustrating for us because it was a good performance. We had enough of the game to get something out of it, so it wasn’t all wrong. It was just very naive in a big moment in the game, and it’s fine margins. You could see how much it meant to Ipswich at the end and how much the three points meant to them. That one moment in a set-play has got to mean more to us.
“There won’t be much between the sides, that is the story of most games in this league. The focus is on these two big games at home, we played well in the reverse fixture. It is another game for my team to showcase themselves.”
Beale had one new injury worry to contend with, with defender Aji Alese currently being assessed after picking up an injury in training, With Niall Huggins already ruled out, Sunderland could do without more defensive issues, although Beale stressed he did have options at the back.
“There are no further injuries apart from maybe Aji Alese.,” he added. “He pulled out of training, but we haven’t been able to assess the nature of it yet.
“We have options to change from a back four to a back three with how well Jenson (Seelt) does in training and when he is in the side. It may take a while to implement a certain playing style, but these are hardworking players who are showing me their quality every day.”
The passionate support from the home crowd is one thing the Black Cats can always rely on, as demonstrated by the FA Cup match against Newcastle. Despite being fresh to Wearside, Beale is already well aware of the significance of the support at the Stadium of Light and wants his team to take full use of that vital element.
“We have some of the highest attendances in the league and we want to make the Stadium of Light a fortress,” he added ahead of tonight’s game.
“However, it is up to us to spur the fans on with our hard work and intensity. We know they will back us, but we have to perform.”
This is the first of two back-to-back home games for Sunderland, with Stoke City on Wearside on Saturday, January 27. A short trip to neighbours Middlesbrough follows on February 4 before Plymouth Argyle make the long trip to the North East on Saturday, February 10.