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Roker Ramble: Frustration At Being Out Of The Bottom Three Is Reason To Be Positive

In this week's Roker Ramble, Rory Fallow talks about why recent frustrations give us reasons to be cheerful.

As cruel as Southampton's last minute equaliser was, it was certainly better than a 3-1 defeat at home to Bournemouth or a limp away defeat to Swansea City.

Would you rather have a result like we just had, a one that makes you desperate for the next game, or a one where your players look like ghosts on the pitch and you just want the season to end now? Because the latter is exactly how Newcastle and Norwich look and feel at the moment.

It's a sign of the progress we've made since January that we're so frustrated, even though we're out of the bottom three. That frustration can be seen as a big positive though, as it shows how well we're playing at the moment compared to our relegation rivals.

Yes, we may have dropped some points at Southampton, but let's not neglect the fact that we look hard to beat again.

In the Crystal Palace game, we would usually crumble after going behind (you only have to look at the last time we played Palace at home for evidence of that) but we dug in and rescued a point. At Anfield, we came from two goals down to snatch a draw. We made Manchester United thankful they only got beat by one goal. Then on Saturday, the side that walloped us 8-0 last season were over the moon to draw at home to us.

Over that same period of time, Norwich have only take one solitary point and Newcastle have lost four out of 5. Looking at it objectively, Sunderland would be the team you would back to stay up.

The lads aren't just playing well and grinding out results either. They're looking like a team - a team that's enjoying their football. It's obvious to say that the rejuvenated team spirit is down to the players that signed during the January transfer window but it's so obvious that you can't ignore it. Jan Kirchhoff looks like one of the most naturally gifted and cool midfielders I've ever seen in a Sunderland shirt; Lamine Kone is making defending look easy whilst making a good attacking contribution, and Wahbi Khazri has always looked a threat going forward, even in his quieter games. These players are desperate to seize their chance in the Premier League and that desperation and hunger can only be a good thing for Sunderland.

We've seen how their enthusiasm has bled into the rest of the squad. After a slight dip in form, Yann M'Vila looked more like the player he was earlier in the season on Saturday. Playing alongside Kirchhoff, thus having someone to share the defensive responsibility with, will hopefully be something that M'Vila continues to benefit from and allow him to play slightly higher up the pitch.

Whilst the search for that elusive clean sheet goes on, we've looked far more likely to keep one since Kone's arrival. In the six league games he's played in we've conceded eight goals, compared to thirteen in the six before he made his debut. I'm not saying that is all down to him - John O'Shea had a great game against Manchester United and Younes Kaboul looked solid at St Mary's - but his presence and influence is certainly having the required impact.

At the top of the pitch, Wahbi Khazri looks like he has the skill and work rate we'll need to keep ourselves out of trouble. When he's on the ball, he carries it really well and rarely gets dispossessed. From set pieces, he's a wizard, winning us the Manchester United game with two of them and rattling the woodwork away at West Ham and Southampton.

When you add in Defoe's goal threat, Borini's flair and tenacity, you have a very dangerous looking front three. Hell, even though he may have poor on Saturday, Dame N'Doye still offers us an alternative kind of threat.

I've rambled on quite a bit here and not even mentioned the fact that Patrick van Aanholt continues to be a constant forward threat, Jack Rodwell may have finally found a position for himself and we're now seeing returns to fitness for Sebastian Larsson and Younes Kaboul, two players whose experience will be huge over the last nine games.

Sunderland have a lot to be positive about at the moment and it's a shame there's no game this weekend to carry on that momentum. I bet the players are desperate for the next game after having three points snatched from their grasp.

That desire will hopefully build itself up on the training pitch as Sam Allardyce drills his players ahead of the Tyne-Wear relegation bonanza, in just under two weeks time.

Going into that nerve shredding derby we see ourselves outside the relegation zone, something that Sam Allardyce deserves immense credit for. Not only has it put our fate back into our own hands but it's made going to games enjoyable again, given the performances us fans have witnessed.

It's certainly not the apathy we're used to feeling and you definitely can't say that about some of the teams around us.

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