Having a good striker is useful, but teams will not win games if they cannot keep the ball. Martin O'Neill knows this, after watching Steven Fletcher put Sunderland ahead yet again on Saturday, before the concession of another costly equaliser.
Sunderland have not won in 12 league games, and O'Neill admitted that a lack of care for the ball left them vulnerable to this alarming statistic. "In the four games we have played, we have been under pressure at the end," he conceded. "We have to try and keep possession better."
After Fletcher's goal Sunderland barely ventured forward, and West Ham's relentless pressure eventually told with Kevin Nolan's late volley earning a 1-1 draw. The captain always finds a way, and represents a resilience which was absent for too long from the Boleyn Ground.
"It always feels sweeter to do it like that," Nolan said afterwards. "I was standing with Joey O'Brien in the corner waiting for Fraizer Campbell to walk off and we were saying to each other: "How can we be losing this game, with the chances we've had?
"So to get that chance at the end and see it hit the back of the net was very pleasing for me. And yes, it does make it a bit sweeter. It shows the character of the team."
Nolan's ability to hit gymnastic volleys is remarkable, but Sam Allardyce knows he has been doing it for years. "Nobody underestimates Nolan," his manager said. "Look at his CV. In the Premier League, 10 goals, nine goals, 11 goals, nine goals, etc. I hope they underestimate him for the rest of the season and he will end up the joint-top scorer, like at Newcastle.
"He was great value for money in the Premier League but very expensive in the Championship. So give credit to David Sullivan and David Gold for spending that money on that sort of player."
West Ham: JAASKELAINEN 6/10; DEMEL 6; REID 6; COLLINS 6; O'BRIEN 6; VAZTE 6; DIAME 8; NOBLE 7; NOLAN 8; TAYLOR 7; COLE 6
Sunderland: MIGNOLET 8; ROSE 7; O'SHEA 8; BRAMBLE 8; GARDNER 7; MCCLEAN 6; COLBACK 7; CATTERMOLE 7; LARSSON 7; SESSEGNON 6; FLETCHER 8
Goals: West Ham Nolan 90+3. Sunderland Fletcher 9. Subs: WH Jarvis 6 (Taylor, 57), Benayoun 6 (Vaz Te, 57), Maiga (Cole, 77). S'land Vaughan 6 (Larsson, 63), Campbell 6 (Sessegnon, 71), Meyler (Campbell, 90). Booked: WH Reid, Jääskeläinen. S'land Gardner. Man of match Diame. Match rating 4/10. Poss: WH 61%. S'land 39%. Attempts on target: WH 4. S'land 1. Ref L Mason (Lancashire). Attendance 33,052.Reuse content