Sunderland Vs Everton, Sat 26 Dec 2009

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Steve Bruce has ordered Sunderland to cut out the individual errors if they want to establish themselves in the Barclays Premier League.

The Black Cats have found themselves marooned in 10th place in the table in recent weeks amid a run of games which has brought them just five points from a possible 27.

Just five weeks or so ago, they were being touted as possible European contenders after a 1-0 home victory over Arsenal.

But a return of only one point from the five games they have played since has seen them slip seven points adrift of seventh-placed Birmingham and left them only five better off than Bolton inside the relegation zone.

Poor team performances at Wigan and Fulham have not helped, but individual mistakes have contributed in no small part to a home draw with Portsmouth and defeats by Aston Villa and Manchester City, and Bruce knows that cannot be allowed to continue.

He said: "It's five weeks ago since we beat Arsenal and everybody was absolutely delirious.

"You looked at the fixtures before then with Liverpools and Tottenhams and Manchester Uniteds in there and you think, 'This is going to be tough'.

"You get through that and get over Arsenal and look on paper and think - but the Premier League is unforgiving and if you just make individual errors, you come two, three, four, five per cent off your maximum, you get punished by any team, and we have learnt a harsh lesson."

Sunderland's promising start to the season sent spirits soaring on Wearside despite a depressing inability to reproduce their home form on the road, but some of that early optimism has dissipated in recent weeks.

There are mitigating circumstances, however, with injuries and suspensions having bitten hard into Bruce's resources - central defender Michael Turner starts a four-match ban on Saturday just as skipper Lorik Cana returns from an enforced lay-off.

But Bruce believes there is a more fundamental barrier to break through, the mentality at a club which has had to fight tooth and nail for the last two seasons to retain its top-flight status and shed the yo-yo label it has earned over the years.

He said: "The biggest thing is the mentality here. The club has been in the bottom five for two years practically, so the mentality is that it's acceptable.

"That's the one thing we have to try to eradicate if we possibly can."

David Moyes reckons Everton are down at the bottom of the Premier League because they deserve to be.

The Goodison Park boss will have no truck with suggestions the Toffees are too good to be 15th in the table and two points off the relegation zone.

Moyes takes his injury-ravaged side to Sunderland and then has a home clash with Burnley on Monday as Everton search for the points to haul themselves away from the drop zone.

Moyes, who is unlikely to have much room for changes to his side due to the continued injury problems, said: "By this time, the league has taken shape and we have an idea of where clubs will be. "You will get someone making a push at the top, and someone down at the bottom.

"We have to make sure that is us because we are too near the trap-door for comfort at the moment. "Our form has improved, the points tally has not. But draws against Spurs and Chelsea have certainly lifted the confidence, and we played well enough to have beaten Birmingham who are on a good run at the moment.

"I am frustrated with the results of late, but performances have improved. We just need to get three points to go with better displays, though.

"Things can change very quickly over Christmas, with a couple of games in quick succession, and we want to make that happen.

"But I don't want anyone saying we should not be where we are. The league is forming now, you can see the various levels.

"We cannot say the current position is not a true reflection on our season because it is a true reflection."

Moyes who hopes Phil Neville, Joseph Yobo and Sylvain Distin will be back from long-term injuries in the next few weeks, needs their experience.

He added: "We have not been playing well enough. But everyone is very tightly bunched at the moment and a couple of games can change all that very easily, but I must underline that I do not believe the positions of clubs are far wrong."

And Moyes' view on the sacking of Mark Hughes, who he crossed swords with over the Joleon Lescott transfer saga, is: "I am always disappointed to see a fellow manager lose his job, it is never good. But was anyone surprised?"

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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