Sam’s Downing appeal

Sunderland 1 West Ham 1

Sam’s Downing appeal

Downing was the stand-out performer at the Stadium of Light, scoring his side’s equaliser as they cemented their place in the top six with a share of the spoils against Gus Poyet’s draw specialists.

The midfielder is revelling in a more central role, and Allardyce insists it is harsh to judge the 30-year-old on the most recent of his 35 caps, the below-standard 45-minute display in last month’s victory over Scotland.

Downing featured at Celtic Park after a pain-killing injection, a move by the England medical team which clearly upset Allardyce, who said: “He shouldn’t have played because he’d been injected after a problem with his knee.

“He wasn’t 100% fit and it didn’t do him any favours. We shouldn’t judge him on what happened for 45 minutes against Scotland and he should get the opportunity to go again if he plays like he played today.”

Downing’s deflected shot from the edge of the area midway through the first-half was his third goal of the season.

Allardyce added: “He doesn’t just like his new position, he loves it. He’s gained the freedom to pop up in different areas of the pitch, find space and turn and run at defenders. There aren’t too many playing as well as Stewart at the moment in the Premier League.”

If Downing is guilty of failing to reproduce his club form for his country, the opposite is true of Jozy Altidore, who contrived a comical miss in first-half stoppage time with an attempt of breath-taking ineptitude from five yards. The forward has scored once in 41 Premier League appearances for Sunderland, but boasts a scoring ratio of a goal every three games for the United States, albeit against the likes of Guadeloupe, Panama, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Sunderland took the lead through a disputed Jordi Gomez penalty when Adam Johnson went to ground courtesy of the kind of cynical tumble of which his marker James Tomkins was guilty against Everton last month. Referee Phil Dowd evened things up by ignoring a blatant handball in the area by West Ham defender Winston Reid after the break.

Their capitulation at Southampton apart, Poyet’s side are proving relatively difficult to beat, but a lack of cutting edge has resulted in 10 draws and a looming relegation scrap.

The Uruguayan admits he is short of options in terms of personnel when it comes to making his side a more potent all-round attacking threat.

“The easiest way to solve the problems is to get a player who can make a difference on his own. We don’t have that at the moment.”

SUNDERLAND (4-1-4-1): Pantilimon 8; Vergini 6, O’Shea 7, Brown 7, Reveillere 7, Cattermole 7; Johnson 6 (Alvarez 70, 5), Larsson 7, Gomez 6, Wickham 6; Altidore 5 (Fletcher 62, 5).

WEST HAM (4-3-1-2): Adrian 7; Jenkinson 7, Tomkins 5, Reid 6, Cresswell 7; Kouyate 6, Nolan 6 (Valencia 81, 5), Song 7; Downing 8; Sakho 6, Carroll 5.

Referee: Phil Dowd 6.

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