What positives can Dick Advocaat take from defeat at West Ham?

Sunderland Stadium of Light

Sunderland's interim boss took charge of his first game on Saturday, a 1-0 defeat at West Ham, but what can he take from the loss at Upton Park?

The unlucky defeat, courtesy of a controversial late Diafra Sakho goal, leaves the Black Cats just one point and one place above the Premier League relegation zone with eight games remaining. So with very little time to dwell on things, Advocaat needs to work on the positive aspects of his first game in charge.

1. The winning goal should never have stood

A clear foul by Hammers midfielder Nene on Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson in the lead up to the goal was not spotted by referee Lee Mason, and Advocaat's men can count themselves extremely unfortunate not to have toughed out a crucial point that their performance deserved. Compare Saturday's spirit to the capitulation in Gus Poyet's final game in charge - the 4-0 defeat to Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light - and there are signs of encouragement for the run-in.

2. A new attacking formation caused problems

Okay, Sunderland drew another blank, but the combination of Connor Wickham in a free role behind the main strikers Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe was effective in the main, particularly in the first half when both Wickham and Defoe could have done better with presentable opportunities. In a team that has struggled to score goals all season, it is encouraging that Advocaat is being immediately creative with the resources available to him, and the formation showed promise. Wickham demonstrated last season he can score the vital goals when it matters, and with more training time in the new position can come up with the goods again.

3. The international break should benefit Sunderland

Advocaat now has a full week and a half to work with his players before the April 5th encounter with local rivals Newcastle United. Given the short turnaround between the Dutchman's appointment last week and Saturday's Upton Park encounter, the improvement in performance showed the seeds of a fruitful relationship which priceless hours on the training pitch should now turn in to tangible rewards.

The much-travelled former Glasgow Rangers and Dutch national team boss was also encouraged after Saturday's narrow defeat, but spoke of points being more important than performances, telling The Guardian: “The only important thing in the final eight games is winning, the way that we do is not important. So if we win games very ugly I like that...Now I have time to see my best lineup."

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