The Black Cats will be guaranteed another season of Barclays Premier League football if they beat West Brom at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday evening, and even a point is likely to be enough to keep them up regardless of what Norwich do against Arsenal on Sunday because of their superior goal difference. For head coach Poyet, who took over in October last year with his side having collected just a single point from their opening seven league fixtures, that would represent a major achievement. Gus Poyet admits it will feel like he has guided Sunderland to a trophy if they manage to complete their great escape. Asked if it would feel like winning something, the 46-year-old Uruguayan said: “Nearly, yes, it’s a good shout. Probably. “Normally you don’t celebrate when you finish 16th or 15th in the league. We will. It’s true, we will.” Sunderland, of course, came within 35 minutes of genuine glory on March 2 when they led Manchester City 1-0 in the Capital One Cup final at Wembley before eventually going down 3-1. However, their next six league games yielded just one draw and as they slipped seven points adrift of safety, they looked to be destined for the Sky Bet Championship until they embarked upon an unlikely run of results. Few commentators expected the Black Cats to improve their situation to any meaningful degree as they headed for City, Chelsea and Manchester United either side of a home game against Cardiff. But a surprise draw at the Etihad Stadium – but for a late error by keeper Vito Mannone, they might have won there too – heralded a run of three successive victories, two of them famously at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford, which have lifted them to the brink of salvation. Poyet said: “The problem is if you use the word ‘surprised’, it looks like you cannot believe it. “I was getting close to wondering what we needed to do to win a football game because we were, in my understanding, performing better even at home, but there was always something happening that meant we couldn’t go on and achieve the results. “Maybe the first goal at Manchester City after two minutes gave the team something that was missing to go on and start performing and winning. “We are on a run now and we don’t want to stop. We want to keep playing and winning.” West Brom head coach Pepe Mel has vowed to fight his corner ahead of next week’s talks with chairman Jeremy Peace. Following his arrival in early January as successor to the sacked Steve Clarke, Mel has upheld his side of the bargain by keeping the Baggies in the Barclays Premier League. Although Albion are three points above the relegation zone, their vastly superior goal difference over Norwich means they are safe barring the most astonishing sequence of results. With two games remaining Spaniard Mel can face Peace, along with sporting and technical director Richard Garlick, pointing to the fact he has done all that was asked. Whether Mel has done enough to convince them he deserves a new deal remains to be seen, especially given the rumours of unrest behind the scenes. But then whatever Peace says when it comes to cash for the summer and the club’s transfer policy may not be music to the ears of Mel, who signed an initial 18-month deal with a break clause inserted after the first six. With talks planned for next Monday, Mel said: “When a manager comes in mid-season it means a club is having some difficulties. “The most important thing from my tenure here was to get the team out of trouble. “So my ambition, when I first came here, was that come the 12th of May West Brom would be in the Premier League, so I have achieved my maximum ambition. “Now I have a different ambition. What I want to carry on is (for the club) to keep on improving. That’s how I want to move forward in the future. “Now I need to listen to what the chairman has to say. I want to know what he has in mind for the future of this club, what are his plans. “But I also want you to understand I’m an ambitious person and I want to be able to put forward my own arguments to take this club forward.” Albion can at least afford to relax a little against a Sunderland side who have won their last three games to virtually secure their own place in the top flight for next season. Despite that, Mel said: “What they’ve done is completely unexpected. “No one thought Sunderland would be able to do that, but they have shown they’ve great mental strength. They fully deserve to stay up. “For us, this is still a massively important game. We want to show our respect to the competition, the oppostion, so our only focus will be to win.” Mel has a doubt surrounding defender Steven Reid, who missed Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Arsenal with a groin injury. Press Association
With their second weekend at home in the books, the No. 1 University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team victoriously slid past the Bemidji State University Beavers, sweeping them 5-0 and 6-0.This weekend’s sweep was predominately due to the efforts of Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens. Desbiens not only earned two more shutouts this weekend, but with her 44th shutout Sunday, officially clinched the NCAA career shutout record of 43.Desbiens blocked 36 attempts at goal this weekend, helping her team remain scoreless through six intense periods of play. She also managed to hold down the net while the Badgers killed nine penalties between the two games.Women’s hockey: Desbiens, Cogan earn awards as Badgers climb to No. 1Although the Wisconsin women’s hockey team is off this weekend, the Badgers are still making noise in the rankings, on Read…This accolade for Desbiens will complete a phenomenal series of accomplishments that the Badger goaltender has made since coming to Wisconsin. It is not something that Desbiens had planned from the beginning, and it is still something that shocks her when she looks back at it.“It’s kind of impressive,” Desbiens said. “It not something I would have thought about when I got here four years ago.”Desbiens’ team couldn’t be more proud of her at this moment, especially her head coach Mark Johnson. Johnson took a few minutes to compliment his star goaltender on her efforts.“Last year was a real special year for [Desbiens] as an individual,” Johnson said. “She did things that I’ve never seen in the game of hockey from a goaltending standpoint. Again, I credit her for not living on her laurels this past summer and continuing to work. She’s got bigger things ahead of her, and so she continues to work and continues to stay focused, she’s got a bright future.”Of course, Desbiens had a tough road to get to this accomplishment. Just this weekend alone, Desbiens defended nine penalty kills, which isn’t the usual number that she is used to facing on a weekend, and made it tough to secure two more shutouts.To help secure her net, Desbiens relied on both the Wisconsin penalty kill unit and on her defensive unit to help her out during these intense times. With penalties becoming more common in women’s hockey this season, senior defensemen Jenny Ryan knows that penalty kills are one of the most important things the Badgers need to work on.Women’s hockey: No. 1 Badgers take on Bemidji State without Pankowski in WCHA conference matchupFor the first time in a month, the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team will be skating on their home Read…“We take pride in our penalty kill, and we’ve worked really hard on it,” Ryan said. “We try to play off each other, and we know where the other’s going to be. Ann takes charge back there, and we can count on her to do more things than a normal goalie would do.”The No. 1 ranked team gets to take a break from playing for a week. Their next series against the University of Minnesota-Duluth is Nov. 18 in Duluth. Until then, the Badgers have a lot to celebrate.