But after Anthony Le Tallec's 71st minute mis-kick deflected off Steve Watson and gave the Black Cats only their second win of a tortuous season, McCarthy cautiously admitted to his new approach. McCarthy said: "I did talk about the psychology of it all prior to the game. I have to be careful with that because I have got a pile of psychologists writing to me saying they're going to come up and help. "They must have got their coaching badges at the same time I got mine. But there was a certain psychology to the game."
McCarthy believed his apparently doomed side had much less reason to feel the pressure than Bryan Robson's Baggies who hovered precariously above the bottom three. "They have got to be nervous, they have to scared of being caught and dropped into the bottom three and strangely enough we can relax," said McCarthy. "I don't think the pressure is on us as much as the teams slightly above us and I think that gave them a nervous disposition all the way through the game." In fact McCarthy's men started under the most pressure, and by half-time they had given Baggies keeper Tomasz Kuszczak no chance to repeat the astonishing save which had saved three points at Wigan the previous week.
Tommy Miller and Justin Hoyte had what passed for Sunderland's best chances from long-range while Albion should have ended a dismal first period on top but for bad misses by Steve Watson and Nathan Ellington. Ellington's drive over the crossbar from little more than eight yards in the 35th minute brought groans from The Hawthorns fans and noticeably increased the pressure which Sunderland managed to exploit.
In a fine start to the second half, Julio Arca stretched to meet a pinpoint cross by Liam Lawrence only to fire agonisingly wide from 10 yards. Sunderland maintained the upper-hand but with chances for either side so few and far between it seemed strangely fitting that the winning goal should arrive as a result of a catalogue of errors. Lawrence appeared to foul Darren Carter for the ball on the half-way line before sending Le Tallec into the right side of the box, where his poor shot ricocheted off Watson and dribbled past a helpless Kuszczak.
Still marooned at the bottom of the table, McCarthy's men need a comeback which would eclipse Albion's great final day escape of the previous season. But McCarthy refuses to admit defeat, adding: "We've got an important FA Cup game then we play Middlesbrough, and if we manage two victories on the spin there might be a few backsides twitching above us. "I'm just worried about making them twitch. I'd like us to build on the back of this and be scrapping to the very last. While we are cast adrift at the minute, perhaps we can get out of it."
The Baggies certainly looked likely to be drawn back into the mire after any lingering joy at last week's win at Wigan dissipated in the gloomy Hawthorns evening. Robson blamed referee Phil Dowd's failure to spot Lawrence's challenge on Carter for the defeat but he also rightly singled out his side's woefully under-par display. "I knew it would be difficult but we made it difficult for ourselves. We didn't pass the ball and nobody took responsibility, and in the second half it was really scrappy but we should still have come away with a point," he said. But Robson rejected McCarthy's suggestion his side had felt the pressure of being put in the rare position where they were expected to pick up the three points.
He added: "I don't think it was anything to do with the fear factor because we are not in the bottom three and all we could do was pull away from the teams below us. "Maybe we did get a little bit anxious. But I said to the fans and the players in the week not to just come here and expect Sunderland to roll over." REF'S REPORT: Referee Phil Dowd booked three Sunderland players and none from West Brom but was accused by Baggies boss Bryan Robson of missing a foul on Darren Carter prior to the winning goal. FUSSY FACTOR: Dowd allowed the game to flow as much as possible but did appear to get it wrong over the Liam Lawrence's crucial challenge on Carter in the 71st minute.
Goals: Watson og (72) 0-1.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kuszczak; Albrechtsen, Curtis Davies, Watson, Robinson; Greening, Inamoto (Horsfield, 69), Wallwork (Chaplow, 86), Carter; Campbell, Ellington (Nicholson, 79). Substitutes not used: Kirkland, Clement.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Davis; Hoyte, Breen, Caldwell, Danny Collins; Lawrence (Nosworthy, 90), Whitehead, Miller, Arca; Stead (Gray, 86), Le Tallec (Bassila, 76). Substitutes not used: Alnwick, Murphy.
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Sunderland Caldwell, Breen, Miller.
Man of the match: Lawrence.
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