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Cats' Character Leaves Poyet Purring

Sunderland failed to grasp the opportunity to claw their way out of the relegation zone at Cardiff, but Gus Poyet insists his side's survival bid is clicking into gear.

Paul Thomas

Gus Poyet was in confident mood after seeing his side claim a gutsy point at Cardiff.

Since the Uruguayan's appointment in October, Sunderland have been somewhat cut adrift towards the bottom of the table, but an unbeaten run of games - including three away from home - has seen a 5 point gap to 17th place cut to 2 points, and shifted Poyet's focus from catching the pack to surpassing them.

"When we took over, there was a big gap in the middle, now we are one win away from getting out of the relegation zone," said the former Brighton boss. "That is a good feeling. But it's up to us.

"Somehow, we're five games unbeaten, and the problem you have at the bottom is that nobody pays attention but we defended very well [at Everton] and maybe we were not scoring enough, but today we scored when we needed to, so I hope things are going in the right direction.

"If we can maintain that consistency, we can go into the New Year with another three points."

A win in Wales would have seen Sunderland begin 2014 outside of the relegation zone after a favourable set of results earlier in the day, and there is a degree of frustration amid the support at another opportunity being allowed to slip through the players' grasp.

It is a frustration that Poyet probably shares, but it was the positives that he was keen to emphasise, particularly the character shown to snatch a point from what seemed a pretty hopeless situation following a frankly atrocious opening spell by the visitors.

"We started the game very badly; putting ourselves in the situation that we were in. By the end of the first half, we were coming back. Last 25 minutes, there is only one team on the pitch.

"We keep coming and coming and coming, knocking on the door, and it was a matter of scoring the first goal with enough time left to go on and score. Sometimes you don't give yourself that chance.

"Character, desire - I will say: we are not going to give up. To beat us you are either going to be very good or work very hard."

There was good news on the Fabio Borini front too. The on-loan striker, who started the game despite illness, gave everyone a bit of a good old fright by 'collapsing' and being rushed to hospital.

"He's [Borini] feeling better - the doctor has had the call. He's not going to fly back with us but will stay overnight. He is being released from hospital so thankfully it's nothing serious."

So... a missed opportunity or an inspiring act of defiance? Probably both. Too often this season a good result has been followed by an inviting game for which the Sunderland players just didn't turn up. At least they did turn up for this one, even if they were a bit late.

Onwards and, hopefully, upwards. A New Years Day win over Aston Villa on home turf and survival will suddenly feel like a distinct possibility.

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