Keane seeks lift-off through consistency

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The Independent Online

Roy Keane has said that one-off victories are no good to him. The Sunderland manager has spent the last two years, and upwards of £70million, building a squad that he believes is capable of not only surviving in the Premier League, but of making a real impression. However, Saturday's 1-0 home defeat by West Ham United, coupled with Wigan Athletic's home victory by the same scoreline over Everton on Monday night, left Keane's side poised just one place and a single point ahead of arch-rivals Newcastle United, who are in the relegation zone.

Keane has said throughout his reign at the Stadium of Light that consistency is the key, and the lack of that commodity is proving costly this season with just four points separating Fulham in ninth from Newcastle in 18th.

Sunderland have not won back-to-back league games this term, and managed to do so only once in the last campaign when they sandwiched a home victory over West Ham with their only two successes on the road, away to Aston Villa and Fulham.

"The teams down and around where we are, aren't capable of getting two or three wins [on the trot]," Keane said. "It's proving difficult for a lot of teams. You seem to have one good result, then two or three bad ones. Every now and again, it's easy to win one game of football, but it is continuing to win, that's the problem we have all found, and that's why it is so tight.

"The key is can you get back-to-back results and get up that table. We have not managed to do that ourselves for a long, long time. But the position we are in, if we are not at the races, we will be beaten. We have got to be at it week in, week out."

However, what is perhaps more of a concern this time around is that Sunderland's home form, or at least their ability to get results at the Stadium of Light, has all too often deserted them.

They collected 30 of the 39 points they managed in the whole of last season on Wearside. To date, their seven home games in the current campaign have yielded only two wins – over Newcastle and Middlesbrough – and a single draw with Arsenal. While Liverpool, Manchester City, Portsmouth and West Ham have all left with three points.

With Bolton Wanderers heading back to the north-east this weekend after cruising to a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough on Saturday, that is a situation which has to be addressed.

"Last year, our home form kept us in the Premier League, where our away from wasn't up to scratch," Keane said. "But what we have found in the Premier League is if you don't take your chances, it comes back to haunt you. With the players we have, particularly up front now, if we do create opportunities or certainly get more balls into the box, we are capable of scoring more goals. But our home form between now and the end of the season will have a major part to play."

Sunderland were represented at Bramall Lane last night to assess the form of on-loan striker Anthony Stokes, who was expected to return to the Sheffield United squad for the match with Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers after being left out of Saturday's 5-2 win at Charlton Athletic following his late return from international duty with the Republic of Ireland.

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