LONDON Crystal Palace's players are gripped by "fear", according to manager Sam Allardyce, after his freefalling side suffered a humiliating 4-0 Premier League defeat against fellow relegation strugglers Sunderland on Saturday.
Palace, devoid of confidence after a dreadful run of form, capitulated against bottom-of-the-table Sunderland and were 4-0 down at the break, having conceded three goals in five frenetic minutes.
Disgruntled Palace fans aimed chants of "you're not fit to wear that shirt" at their team -- boasting internationals such as Yohan Cabaye, Christian Benteke, Andros Townsend and Loic Remy -- who looked defunct of ideas, confidence and leadership throughout.
Defender Damien Delaney, meanwhile, was confronted by an angry fan as he made his way off the pitch during the break.
"The fear we are suffering here (Selhurst Park) is evident," manager Allardyce, who has never been relegated from the Premier League, told the BBC.
"Fear gripped the players and it hasn't allowed them to express their ability. I can't think it can be anything other than that.
"It is a difficult one because the fans are so good here. It is not often the players get much stick but they deserved the booing. Today I saw fear strike the players.
"We have a lot to do. It was a huge shock for me what I saw today. The lads find it difficult to play here at the moment."
For Sunderland, meanwhile, their emphatic victory -- courtesy of a Jermain Defoe brace and goals from Lamine Kone and Didier Ndong -- represented the end of a very unwanted run for midfielder Jack Rodwell.
The former England midfielder had not won a game in which he had started since he helped Manchester City beat West Bromwich Albion in May 2013 - 39 matches (37 for Sunderland) and 1,370 days ago.
Sunderland remain bottom of the table on goal difference behind 19th-placed Palace but will be boosted by their first league win since mid-December.
"It gets us three points and more confidence, more belief," manager David Moyes told reporters. "It is going to be a tough job but if we had lost it would have been much tougher. Every game is must win."
(Reporting By Tom Hayward, editing by Neil Robinson)