Saturday’s 2-1 defeat away at Coventry City put Sunderland in something of an unfamiliar position.
For only the second time this season, and the first since October, we’ve experienced back-to-back defeats.
Against both Rotherham and Coventry, we fell behind relatively early and were losing at the break. Despite carving out chances in both games, we simply didn’t do enough to merit taking anything from the games.
Losing is always frustrating, but the drop in performance levels from the 0-3 win at Queens Park Rangers to the 2-1 loss against Mark Robins’ team was eye-opening.
Going from the highs of consecutive wins to the lows of successive defeats is the kind of contrast we might’ve expected during our first season back in the Championship.
I wouldn’t describe the week ahead as ‘vital’, but we need to do all we can to avoid making it three defeats on the spin. The players looked leggy after the Coventry game, with the tough schedule of Saturday and Tuesday matches clearly taking their toll.
It feels as though a lack of energy, coupled with the odd mistake, had been starting to filter into our game, and it’s certainly cost us points in our last three outings.
The Coventry defeat had the added frustration of us enjoying over 70% possession without converting that dominance into chances.
We were very good at keeping the ball, but we often looked short of ideas against a stubborn Sky Blues’ backline. However, we’ve already shown that we can break down tough defences, and we need to get back to the formula that’s worked for us this season.
Failure to reach the playoffs at the end of the campaign wouldn’t be a failure in itself.
Many of us would’ve snapped your hand off for a mid-table finish this season, but a prolonged run without a win will do little to help the confidence of the fans or the players.
With that in mind, a full week off and a return to the Stadium of Light, where we’ve turned our form around since Christmas, has come at the perfect time.
Between now and the end of the season, we’ll come up against some of the best sides in the division and whilst I firmly believe we can stand up to the task, we’ll need to shake off the lethargic displays of recent times in order to do so.
This is a season of change for Sunderland.
We’re attempting to move out from the shadows of teams that were synonymous with embarrassment and failure. It’s proving to be a slow process, but the early signs of a team who cares more and gives everything for the fans and the head coach are promising.