STEPHANE Sessegnon insists Sunderland cannot afford to keep giving opposition sides head-starts if they are to move away from the drop zone.
Sunderland have fallen behind in four of their last six games – only landing the first blow in last week’s victory over basement boys Reading.
The Black Cats were 3-0 down against both Chelsea and Manchester United over the last fortnight before they put their title-chasing opponents on the back foot.
And Sessegnon knows Sunderland must bring an immediate halt to the pattern in Saturday’s crunch trip to Southampton, as Martin O’Neill’s men look to widen the one-point gap with the bottom three.
The Benin forward said: “It’s unfortunate that we keep giving teams these lead.
“At Manchester United last weekend, it was another match where we made mistakes defensively and then in the second half, we tried to get something out of the game.
“We’ve shown we’ve got the ability in the team, but we must start playing from the first whistle.
“It’s something we must learn because it’s clear that you can’t keep coming back from being three goals down against teams like Man United and Chelsea.
“When you are losing 3-0 against teams like that, it gives you too much to do.”
Although Sunderland’s comebacks against Chelsea and Man United came too little, too late, the Black Cats could easily have folded in each encounter.
But the way Sunderland persisted encourages Sessegnon, and he believes it demonstrates that the spirit in the camp has not been affected by their precarious position above the drop zone.
“Our spirit was very good at Man united and we had several occasions to score goals,” added the 28-year-old.
“We could have another one because in the last minutes, we were on top. We were asking the questions.
“The goal probably arrived a bit too late, but it was good for Fraizer (Campbell) and good for the team because it gave us a lot of positives to take from that final 30 minutes.
“But we’ve got to take the positives and keep working hard.
“We know the Premier League has been hard for us this season, but we’ve got to keep our heads and keep our confidence.”