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Friday 15 December 2017

Connor Wickham hasn't considered relegation with Black Cats

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham, pictured, has insisted his contractual situation was never a concern
Sunderland striker Connor Wickham, pictured, has insisted his contractual situation was never a concern

Sunderland striker Connor Wickham insists another fight for Premier League survival has never crossed his mind.

The 21-year-old scored his fourth goal of the season in Saturday's 2-0 victory over Burnley which hauled the Black Cats into 14th place and four points clear of the drop zone.

It was their first win in the league in six attempts since December 21 and just their second of the season at the Stadium of Light.

However, Wickham, whose five goals in three games at the end of last season provided the platform for the club's unlikely great escape, has never even considered the prospect of having to produce a similar fightback this time around.

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He said: "You can never guarantee you are safe - you just have to look at last season. We were seven points adrift and then we managed to avoid it. I don't think anybody can guarantee safety until it's mathematical, so we are not even thinking about that.

"Obviously the aim is to stay in the Premier League and do the best we can, but I don't think - well, for me personally, relegation has never crossed my mind, so it shouldn't for the team either."

Head coach Gus Poyet, despite his delight at a performance and result which answered his pre-match challenge to make the game a turning point in a difficult season, was swift to warn his team they had done little more than start a process which needs to continue over the weeks and months ahead.

However, the manner in which victory was achieved will have come as a welcome relief as his efforts to find a system in which new signing Jermain Defoe could prosper finally paid dividends.

Wickham headed home Anthony Reveillere's 20th-minute cross to open the scoring and when Defoe slid home Patrick Van Aanholt's pull-back 14 minutes later for his first Sunderland goal, the points were secure.

The former Ipswich frontman said: "We played well as a team and we looked comfortable."

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