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KENWYNE Jones insists he does not mind if Djibril Cisse finishes the season as Sunderland’s leading scorer - as long as his own scoring spree continues in the final three-and-a-half months of the campaign.
Saturday’s header against Stoke was Jones’ ninth goal of the season, an impressive return given that he did not make his first start until November because of a serious knee problem.

Cisse boasts ten goals in all competitions, and the pair’s fine goalscoring form has helped propel Sunderland towards the top half of the table in recent weeks.

Jones laughs off suggestions that the duo are embroiled in a contest to top the scoring charts, but after his first season on Wearside brought just seven goals in total, the Trinidadian admits he is delighted with his form in front of goal.

“There isn’t a private duel between me and Djibril, it’s just nice we’re both scoring regularly for the team and helping us move away from the bottom three,” said the striker, who signed a new four-year deal last month after Sunderland rejected Tottenham’s £15m offer for his services.

“We have set our own targets quietly, but we will keep them to ourselves. We don’t go shouting about it to other people.

“We’re not in a competition, but it’s important that I’m scoring goals. People were talking about me last season as a good target man, but I wasn’t scoring regularly enough.

It’s been nice this season to combine the two things.”

Jones has also had to contend with the increased attention of opposition defenders, who are now fully aware of what he is capable of.

“I’m getting different treatment this season,” he admitted. “In the first season, I got a bit of a free ride.

“But this season the defenders are targeting me in different ways.

Physically, especially, it’s a lot more demanding, but I can handle myself out there.”

Saturday’s victory lifted Sunderland to 11th in the table, their highest league position since late October.

They were in the bottom three as recently as mid- December, and with difficult games against Arsenal and Liverpool coming in the club’s next three matches, Jones admits it was crucial to establish some breathing space at the weekend.

“The league table looks a lot nicer than it did,” he said. “We’re seven points away from the bottom three after this win and it was most important we got the three points. We feel a lot better being where we are.

“Our basic objective this season has always been to maintain our Premier League status, that was the most important thing for us.

But we also want to try to finish higher up the table than last season because we want to maintain the progress this club has made in the last few years.”