PHIL BARDSLEY has defended Sunderland team-mate Lee Cattermole following his costly mistakes against Hull City and believes the midfielder was targeted by Steve Bruce’s side during their FA Cup sixth round tie.

Cattermole was at fault for two of Hull’s three goals at the KC Stadium on Sunday, but the Black Cats felt their combative midfielder was targeted by the Tigers in an attempt to unsettle the 25-year-old.

He was booked in the 30th minute for a foul, but referee Craig Pawson’s decision to enter Cattermole’s name into the book was harsh.

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It meant the Stockton-born midfielder had to walk a tight rope for the rest of the game and his hesitancy showed when he gifted goals to former team-mate David Meyler and then Matty Fryatt.

Bardsley insists the squad must take collective responsibility for the defeat, however, and believes Cattermole’s disciplinary record means he is often unfairly treated by officials and opposition players.

“The yellow card he received was pretty soft,” said Bardsley. “I think his reputation goes ahead of him. A few of their players chirping has not helped the situation and he found himself getting a yellow card which was undeserved.

“I thought he was brilliant in the first half and very unfortunate with the mistakes. But he is a very strong character, he is my best pal and I don’t think you can rate him highly enough. “We have to bounce back as a team. It is not about individuals because mistakes happen in football. We’ll dust ourselves down this week and give it a really good go at the weekend.”

Now their domestic cup adventures are over, Sunderland turn their attentions back to their fight for Premier League survival this weekend.

Gus Poyet’s men, who sit second bottom on 24 points, entertain 16th-placed Crystal Palace on Saturday and a win would take them level on points with Tony Pulis’ side.

“The Palace game is absolutely vital, but at least we can take into it our performance from the first 45 minutes where I thought we were pretty good, without creating too many clear cut chances,” said Bardsley.

“At the half way stage we were well and truly in the game, but football punishes you if you make mistakes and they have cost us.

“You have to go out there and win the next match don’t you? It’s not hard. We have got a whole week ahead of us now to train, re-focus and that’s what we will do, starting with the Crystal Palace game on Saturday where hopefully we can get the three points we need.”

Palace’s visit to the Stadium of Light is the first of 12 games Sunderland have to play in the final nine weeks of the season, but Bardsley insists the squad will not use their hectic schedule as an excuse and admits that their destiny is in their own hands.

He said: “We have had a lot of games this season but there is no way we can make excuses for a disappointing result.

“We now have to get over it very quickly and concentrate on getting three points in what will be almost a cup final for us.

“Saturday went pretty well for us results wise and you have to have a little look. Not every result is going to go the way you want but you have to look after yourselves first and foremost. You have to do enough to win football matches and this is a massive week for us as we desperately need to win this next game.

“I didn’t play in the game earlier this season when they were under a different manager, but they will be well organized because Tony Pulis has that wherever he goes. They will be hard to beat and we need to break them down and get that little spark which we didn’t have at Hull.

“We’re disappointed really because in the first half especially we were pretty decent. We had defended quite well and the keeper has made a wonder save from a penalty, but a couple of mistakes have cost us. But things like that happen in football and we have got to try and bounce back as best we can. It wasn’t our day.”