CHRIS COLEMAN has defended Sunderland’s decision to limit the availability of tickets for home matches to guard against the possibility of Newcastle United supporters attending the Stadium of Light.

Having liaised with the local police, Sunderland officials opted to remove all cash turnstiles for Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Norwich and will not be allowing supporters to pay on the gate for the remaining home games against Burton Albion and Wolves.

The Black Cats have also introduced strict eligibility criteria for anyone wanting to purchase a ticket from the box office, requiring anyone attempting to gain access to a home game to have a previous history of purchasing tickets from the club.

The move is a response to talk on social media and fan websites suggesting Newcastle fans were planning to attend Sunderland’s final home matches to revel in their rival club’s likely relegation to League One. The Black Cats are six points adrift of safety in the Championship relegation zone, with just four more games to play.

Trouble flared at a recent Under-23 game between Sunderland and Newcastle, with Magpies supporters ripping out at seats in the away section at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland’s decision to restrict numbers at their home ground comes despite a huge fall in attendances this season, but Coleman believes it is the right decision.

The Sunderland boss said: “I totally see the security side of it. I get why. Liaising with the police, you have to listen to them, I understand why because safety has to come first.

“I want to see the stadium with as many Sunderland people as we can fit, but I can understand why the club and the police have come to that decision.

“Football is football, and you’re always going to get one team laughing at another. Especially if it’s two derby teams. But all the Newcastle fans I bump in to have been fabulous with me. The proper Newcastle fans have been proper people.

“They want the derby games back. In any walk of life, any industry, there’s a small percentage of people that are unsavoury, but the Newcastle fans I speak to want us back up there because they want the derby games.”

Sunderland play their penultimate away game of the season at Reading on Saturday, and while Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Norwich City has left their survival prospects hanging by a thread, Coleman is not about to start throwing the towel.

He said: “Football being football, surprises happen all the time. We’ve been there a while, but it doesn’t mean we can’t pull something out and take it to the wire.

“Our job is to make sure that at 5pm on Saturday we’re still in the fight, and the other teams are looking at it and saying we haven’t given it up.”

Paddy McNair and Marc Wilson should be available for the trip to Madejski Stadium, but John O’Shea and Adam Matthews are expected to miss out after picking up injuries on Tuesday night.

Coleman said: “Paddy didn’t train with us today, but he trained with Adrian Lamb (head of performance). It was a good session, a more controlled session. We’re expecting him to train with us tomorrow, which is good.

“John didn’t train today, and we’re not expecting him to be ready for the weekend. Adam Matthews is a definite no. Marc Wilson should join in tomorrow, fingers crossed. Jonny Williams probably won’t be ready for another week or ten days if we’re lucky.

“Billy Jones trained today, it was his first session back, and he did okay. He’s obviously not available for the weekend though.

“Lynden (Gooch) got a kick in the last five minutes (on Tuesday) and jarred his knee. He had to come off because he couldn’t run, but he’s got a really good chance for Saturday. He didn’t train today, but we think he should be alright for the game.”