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QUICK KICKS - Sunderland 0 - 1 Liverpool

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Having put in a half decent performance in the first half all of our hard work was undone thirty seconds into the second period, with this latest defeat leaving us seven points from safety.

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What The Gaffer Said

Sam Allardyce must be running out of reasons why his side are under-performing, and I feel that we're going to see a complete no bullshit approach from him in January. Coming out of the Liverpool game with fresh injury worries we find ourselves seven points from safety, with a massive game against Aston Villa to come at the weekend.

It was a cruel goal, very cruel indeed.

I don’t think Liverpool created the goal; it was pure luck. Even the finish was slightly mis-hit, but it went in and that’s what matters.

I think that killed the whole place because we were so optimistic about the second half after what we’d tried to do in the first.

It took a while to recover from that but in the end there wasn’t enough quality play in the final third from ourselves to create the sort of chances to get us back in the game. The effort, organisation and commitment were fine.

Wes Brown came in and did a fantastic job for us; he used his experience with John and Younes out. We lost Jack Rodwell to a hamstring injury and then Seb Coates, so everything has gone against us again.

We have to keep looking to change our luck ourselves, and we do that by continuing to believe in ourselves, work as hard as we did tonight and provide the right sort of quality in front of the opposition goal.

The fans were superb tonight. They were disappointed, like us, but they were terrific and tried to spur the lads on.

Every time we were in the final third they were willing us to get a goal, but sadly we couldn’t produce the right amount of quality to get one.

Sam isn't panicking. That said, I feel this next week will be a huge one for the future of the club. We have to beat Villa on Saturday, and with that also try and bring in a few new players to strengthen our injury-hit defence.

I have to disagree with Sam regarding the Liverpool goal - it wasn't luck. If anything, it was our players switching off and allowing the opposition to score an easy goal.

Rodwell Injured Again

With 2016 on the horizon we can look back and reflect on the year that was - and, for Jack Rodwell, it has been one to forget.

Having left the pitch last night with yet another hamstring injury Rodwell now has to rehabilitate for the ninth time this year. We knew what we were getting when we signed Jack - his long history of injury problems is no secret. For me, more than anything, it's just disappointing. We're battling relegation and need every player fit to give ourselves the best possible chance of surviving - sadly, with Jack Rodwell, we're never going to have that.

Adam Johnson Is A Luxury We Cannot Afford

In recent years we've been able to rely on Johnson to bring us goals and assists every so often, but this year he just doesn't seem to be with it at all. Last night he was wasteful almost every time he was in possession of the ball and I was surprised to see him come back out at half time.

He seems to have lost a yard of pace, and he really struggled against the mobility of Liverpool's midfield. He never got past his full back, and when he moved inside he was barely involved.

We're in the thick of a relegation battle and we cannot afford to have passengers in the side - Johnson is struggling and I feel we need to look elsewhere within our squad to see if there are others that can offer the creativity that we've come to expect from him in recent years.

Hats Off To Fabio

As bad as we've been throughout December I think it would be unfair if the massive improvement in Fabio Borini's performances in recent games wasn't noted. He scored away at Chelsea and Manchester City and was very unlucky not to get his third successive league goal last night, when his shot curled just wide of the post in the first half.

I wouldn't say he's been particularly brilliant but he did come in for a bit of stick after the Watford defeat and he seems to have taken it on the chin and stepped his efforts up. Fair play.

I just hope he can put the same kind of effort in against Villa at the weekend that he did last night against his old club Liverpool. When he plays well and works hard, so does the rest of the team.

Mannone Has Earned His Place

I have to be honest - when I saw that Vito Mannone was starting away to Manchester City last weekend I was slightly confused but nonetheless waited to see how he performed. Having kept his place in order to start last night I felt it would be a big night for him in terms of his long term future at the club and he put in an impressive display which will have given Sam Allardyce food for thought ahead of the January transfer window.

Mannone made some crucial saves at important points of the game which kept the score down and his overall performance was a vast improvement on anything we've seen recently from Costel Pantilimon.

I feel the scoreline flattered Sunderland, and Liverpool didn't even play particularly well. It was down to some great goalkeeping from Vito that the scoreline didn't look much, much worse. Well done to him.

Improved Effort Has Been Noted - But It's Not Enough

You could see the likes of M'Vila, Defoe, Borini, Cattermole and Jones working their hardest yesterday but ultimately it just isn't enough. Our squad lacks the quality to break teams down and even when our bigger characters are putting in one hundred percent effort we still seem to lack the ability to create chances and score goals - that worries me.

If we put the same kind of effort in against Aston Villa it may well be enough to get three points, but I'm not holding out any hope.