VITO MANNONE believes his prophecy that last month’s defeat at Hull City would be a turning point for Sunderland is ringing true.
Sunderland secured their first away clean sheet of the season on Saturday after ending a run of five successive defeats on the road with a goalless draw at Aston Villa.
Goalkeeper Mannone told the Echo four weeks ago that the Black Cats’ feat of avoiding conceding with nine men during the second half of their 1-0 defeat at Hull could be a watershed moment for a defence that shipped 22 goals during the opening 10 Premier League games.
Gus Poyet’s side have registered two shut-outs in their three subsequent league games and Mannone says the defensive foundations have been laid for Sunderland’s bid to avoid the drop.
The Italian told the Echo: “As I said a few weeks ago, I thought everything changed around at Hull when we kept a clean sheet nine against 11.
“That was massive in our mentality. You could tell, even at Stoke, and on Saturday, we are much more solid now. We don’t want to give things away cheaply.
“It’s massive that we’ve stopped conceding goals.
“The manager came in and gave us this mentality of keeping clean sheets. It’s really, really important.
“You can’t believe how much confidence it gives to the team because when you feel solid, you can play your game.
“If you don’t, you start giving the ball away and teams are coming at you.”
Sunderland’s point at Villa Park stopped the rot away from home and kept the Black Cats’ tally ticking over ahead of this week’s daunting back-to-back Stadium of Light clashes against Chelsea and Spurs.
But it could – and probably should – have been all three points for Poyet’s men after a horror first-half miss from Emanuele Giaccherini was followed by his fellow Italian Fabio Borini hitting the bar during the second half.
Mannone (pictured, right) acknowledges Sunderland need to imminently secure their first away win of the campaign after the gulf from safety extended to five points.
“Playing away is quite different, but you need to be able to get into the habit of getting points away,” added the £2million summer capture from Arsenal.
“It will be so important for survival. We need to get some wins away.
“I thought we did really well on Saturday.
“At Stoke (the previous away game), we were a bit unlucky and the game changed with the red card.
“But you could see on Saturday that we maintained a good defence at the back and at the same time, we played the ball and created chances.
“That should have taken the team to three points.
“We were unlucky because, with the chances Emanuele and Fabio Borini had, we could have got the three points.
“Villa didn’t do as well as us, but it’s a point away after a few away games where, for different reasons, we didn’t perform and didn’t get anything out of the games.
“We’re really happy and we feel more comfortable to go into the next away games.”