May 07, 2015

Sunderland are still stuck in the relegation zone, but at least they finally have a victory to build on.

The Black Cats will try to make it two in a row Sunday against struggling Everton at Goodison Park.

Mired in an 0-5-7 stretch dating to consecutive victories over Southampton and Everton in May, Sunderland (1-3-6) broke out with a resounding 3-0 triumph over 10-man Newcastle United in the Wear-Tyne derby last Sunday.

"We were so desperate for it because we didn't have a good start, but we turned up on the day," defender Younes Kaboul told the club's official website.

The victory pulled the Black Cats out of the Premier League basement and to the top of the relegation zone, though only two points back of 17th-place Bournemouth. In addition to scoring one more goal than they did over the previous five league matches combined, Sunderland recorded their first clean sheet of the campaign.

"It's a great confidence boost for the players, scoring three goals against their rivals and keeping a clean sheet for the first time," said manager Sam Allardyce, who needed two matches to earn his first victory after replacing the fired Dick Advocaat on Oct. 9.

"It's also a great relief for the players to get their first win of the season and for me as a new manager. I was wanting to win so badly (last week) and getting the result we have is very important for us."

Adam Johnson opened the scoring off a penalty kick during first-half stoppage time, then goals by Billy Jones and Steven Fletcher followed.

"Everyone was pulling in the right direction," Allardyce said. "It was great."

The Black Cats should have even more confidence knowing they didn't yield a goal while winning their last two trips to Goodison Park. Danny Graham and Jermain Defoe scored at Everton last season for Sunderland's third win in the last five meetings in the series.

The Toffees (3-4-3) totaled 11 goals to open 3-3-1 in the league, but have managed two while going 0-1-2 against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal. Everton wasn't much better Tuesday when they managed to edge Norwich City 4-3 on penalty kicks to advance to the quarterfinals of the League Cup, playing to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes.

They'll return to Premier League play minus popular veteran defender Phil Jagielka, who will miss approximately two months after he injured his knee against Arsenal. Manager Roberto Martinez hopes Ramiro Funes Mori can step in and help fill the void left with Jagielka.

In his first season with Everton, the Argentine defender has played in four Premier League matches with two starts.

"As you can imagine, that's why you have a strong squad and everyone is working well to help the team," Martinez told Everton's official website. "When you get suspensions and injuries, that's when it opens an opportunity for someone else.

"Ramiro has been adapting himself to the British game really well and it has been a very natural process."

Allardyce, meanwhile, hopes Kaboul (groin) and fellow defender John O'Shea (hamstring) will be available after both were injured against Newcastle.

"That was the only downside from (last) Sunday," Allardyce said. "I think John O'Shea's hamstring is settling down and Younes Kaboul felt his groin towards the end of the game so we will wait to see how that is."

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