Sunderland boss Chris Coleman still fighting but knows time is running out
If Chris Coleman had seemed despondent, defeated and crestfallen after last Tuesday's loss to Aston Villa, then it was a very different story at Loftus Road on Saturday.
The Sunderland boss was as bullish as he has been post-match for some time, despite the 1-0 defeat to QPR, pleased with the mentality of his team and their attempts to snatch something out of the game in the closing moments.
He would not be drawn into criticising Jason Steele, suggesting the goalkeeper may have been the victim of an unfortunate bounce.
As he has done since his arrival, he spoke well, with clarity and with honesty.
Yet he is fully aware that he has been here before, said it all before and to supporters the words must seem increasingly hollow.
Time is running out to turn the positives into points.
“I am running out of things to say to the players,” the ex-Wales boss admitted, as Sunderland remain four points from safety.
“Tuesday was easy because it was obvious – anyone can say what was wrong.
“After Saturday, the only thing you can say to them is, ‘Just keep going.’ The teams around us keep dangling carrots at us, they’re not putting us out of our misery.
“While the gap’s there and it’s not getting bigger, there’s still a chance for us.
“I said it last week and the week before but we didn’t win, we drew.
“In our situation, we’ve got to hang onto the fact that at least we played like a team and looked out for each other.
“We didn’t duck it and on Tuesday we did, we just wimped out of it.
“We didn’t do that (at QPR). So we have to build on that.
“When you’ve got a fanbase like we have, and a club the size of us and you’re bottom of the league and haven’t won for nine games, there’s huge pressure on everybody.
“That’s why you want to come to this club – you run the risk of that if it’s not going well, but if we can just get a win and close that gap from four points, I know what will happen at our place.
“But every game that goes past I’m saying the same thing and that’s hard.
“The players have got to show the same heart and a bit more composure at both ends, but, in terms of our all-round play and putting our personality on the game, we tried on Saturday – we tried to do something positive but it never came off.
“We lost. But it wasn’t for the want of trying.
Preston travel to the North East this weekend, desperate to bounce back from conceding a last-minute winner against Fulham on Saturday and restore their play-off hopes.
Coleman knows the pressure will be on his players at the Stadium of Light, but he says they must show they can handle the pressure.
He said: “Where we are is going to be a huge test for all of us.
“It would be much easier for us in a way if we were 10 points adrift and already down.
“But there’s a chance, still a big chance. So there’s pressure on all of us.
“Going into the next game at the Stadium of Light, we know what the atmosphere is going to be – we’ve created it ourselves. It’s a huge challenge for us.
“So what do we do? There’s no hiding place for any of us, no quick-fix, no easy route.
“Long is the road and hard is the way for us between now and the end of the season if we want to get away from where we are and we can still do it.
“Is it easy? Is it going to be enjoyable?
“No. It’s going to be a lot of pressure and stress, but we can still do it.
“If there’s a fight, I’m ready for it, but we’ve got to make sure everyone else is because we can still do it.”