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Sunderland drop into relegation zone

Sunderland
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Shane Long remaining calm

Shane Long insists it is too early to start panicking at West Bromwich Albion, despite Steve Clarke admitting that his position will come under increasing scrutiny if results do not improve before the New Year.

Shane Long celebrates after netting his opening goal against Aston Villa.
Shane Long wants his teammates to stay focused.

Evans: Pressure building

Long, 26, and his Baggies teammates have suffered three defeats in the space of a week to intensify the spotlight on head coach Clarke, whose contract expires in the summer.

The Albion boss conceded ahead of Saturday's disappointing 2-0 defeat to Norwich City that the pressure on his position will increase if his side do not start picking up victories, with the club now sitting just two points off the relegation zone.

The Baggies must next focus on crucial encounters with Cardiff City, Hull City and West Ham ahead of New Year's Day -- three fixtures which could decide whether the club will be facing a relegation fight for the remainder of the season. They will also go a long way to determining whether planned discussions with Clarke over a new contract will take place in January.

However, despite the importance of the fixtures, Long has urged his teammates not to panic just yet and retain their focus.

"It was disappointing against Norwich because we needed three points, let’s not disguise that, so we were disappointed. Credit to Norwich. It’s a big three points for them and they’ve not been having good results lately, but we need to pick things up fairly soon," Long said.
 
"It’s too early to start worrying about our run. Over the last few games we’ve played quite well and Saturday was the first game when we didn’t really look like threatening. In the second half we were all over them but we didn’t really have too many clear-cut chances.

"Stephane Sessegnon had one and I had one cleared off the line. Up to now we’ve been putting in really good performances and just not getting the breaks so we need to get back to that, playing teams off the field and letting the rest take care of itself.

"I think the sooner we forget about Saturday the better. We have two winnable games coming up now against Cardiff and Hull and then the Christmas period with West Ham and Tottenham. There are still points up for grabs so we can’t get too down on ourselves. We’ve just got to forget about Saturday, get back in training, get down to work and concentrate on the job in hand.
 
"Norwich was one of the three games in a row where we thought we could get three points so to come away with nothing was frustrating. We’ve got to learn from it, but at the same time forget about it because we’ve got to make sure we pick up three points next Saturday and then move onto the Saturday after. Good results would take a bit of pressure off us going into the hectic Christmas schedule." 

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