LEE CATTERMOLE admits Sunderland must show a marked improvement over the next three weeks after being humbled by Hartlepool United.
Boyhood Newcastle United fan Steve Howard’s first-half strike proved enough to inflict Sunderland’s second defeat in three pre-season outings last night, as Martin O’Neill’s men succumbed to a 1-0 loss at Victoria Park.
Sunderland now face an intense seven days on the training field before their next friendly at Swedish outfit Helsingborgs IF next Saturday.
But with Sunderland beginning their Premier League campaign at Arsenal three weeks today, skipper Cattermole says they must raise their standards in their three remaining friendly encounters.
Cattermole told SportMail: “On that performance last night we need to be better, improve and work harder in training.
“It was a bit frustrating. It’s fair to say we weren’t good enough on the night.
“But it’s pre-season and you’ve got to move on from it.”
Howard profited from a mistake by Titus Bramble to hand Pools an early lead in a first half where Sunderland were sloppy in possession and struggled to exert any pressure as an attacking force.
Sunderland improved significantly in a one-sided second half, with their two best chances falling to Fraizer Campbell – the striker first denied by a stunning stop from Pools keeper Scott Flinders and then producing a glaring miss in stoppage time.
“It was a very sticky pitch and they played from back to front really quickly,” added Cattermole.
“I don’t think we handled Howard up front very well, but we had problems everywhere with second balls and it was hard to get our foot in the game.
“But in the second half, I thought we came out a bit and showed a better attitude and were a bit unlucky not to get something.”
“It was a great save from Fraizer’s header, but we can’t read too much into it, we’ve just got to keep working hard.”