Connor Wickham says Sunderland may have to ‘win ugly’ to ensure Premier League survival

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SUNDERLAND may have to resort to ugly football to get the goals required for Premier League survival, says Connor Wickham.

Only Aston Villa have netted fewer times in the Premier League this season than the Black Cats, with Wickham and Adam Johnson topping the club’s goalscoring charts with a paltry five a-piece in all competitions.

If we need to play dirty and win by being ruthless then we can

Connor Wickham

While Sunderland conceded four times in 14 minutes in their last outing against Crystal Palace, it is the lack of firepower which concerns new boss Dick Advocaat after just two goals in his three games at the helm have left the club again teetering only one point above the bottom three.

Advocaat has tried to make Sunderland more forward-thinking after deploying Wickham, Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher in the starting XI, but both creating and taking chances remains a huge problem.

And Wickham knows Sunderland’s players have to grasp the change of mentality under Advocaat, with the Black Cats potentially requiring another two wins to remain in the Premier League.

Wickham said: “The way we set up under Gus (Poyet) was pretty similar to how we set up now with three up front.

“But now the focus is on attacking play.

“This manager wants us to play it forwards more and more, and actually win the game.

“It’s not about playing direct, but being ruthless with opportunities and ruthless going forwards.

“He said if we can win playing good football, then that’s great.

“But if we need to play dirty and win by being ruthless, then we can do that.

“It’s down to the boys and down to the team now.”

Fellow relegation contenders Leicester’s third successive victory on Saturday blew away Sunderland’s buffer with the bottom three, heading into the final six games of the campaign.

Sunderland now find themselves again within a point of the safety mark - the same the position they were in when Advocaat succeeded Poyet on a short-term deal a month ago.

But while Sunderland may need to average a point per game from the final half-dozen fixtures, they now face three successive encounters against sides lying in the middle bracket of the table, followed by the crunch visit of Leicester.

Wickham believes Sunderland can pick up points in the upcoming games and potentially suck Aston Villa and Newcastle back into the dogfight.

“We’re not looking down, we’re looking up and see if we can get as far away from it as possible,” he added.

“I don’t see why we can’t catch the teams above us.

“We’ve got a run now where we can pick up points.”