John O’Shea says Sunderland must make the opposition work harder after the Black Cats shipped another three goals against Bristol City.
A second-half comeback meant that Sunderland left Ashton Gate with a creditable result last weekend, but O’Shea was left frustrated by the manner of the first-half implosion.
Sunderland have conceded three goals or more in 10 of their 35 games across all competitions this season, and have yet to win any contest in which they have conceded the first goal.
O’Shea says the second-half showing against the Robins must show the Sunderland players they can correct that last statistic.
The veteran centre-back said: “We’d have taken a point before kick-off. Going down there beforehand, they’re a good team, had been on a bit of a bad run but have had some excellent results this season.
“As a team, you’re thinking, ‘we need to be right on our game’. We had a few chances but when you give Bristol City the help we did, you’re thinking, we’re really not helping ourselves.
“We’re 3-0 down, the manager is saying to us ‘look, there’s ways of losing a game, but this isn’t it. You need to stand up for yourselves better.’
“Thankfully we were able to recover the situation.
“We could have avoided the goals. There’s a set-piece, a counter from our own set-piece and one where we have the ball, there’s a little break up in play and then another.
“You’re thinking, teams will score against us, but we have to make them earn it rather than giving it to them.
“The momentum we got back shows that, even if we do go down in a game, don’t worry, we have the quality to come back.
“Ideally you want to be going ahead in games, but sometimes, you concede a screamer from 40 yards and there’s nothing you can do about.
“But scoring three in 45 minutes, and we could have had more, proves we can fight back from it.”
O’Shea has become a mainstay of the Sunderland defence again this season and has been charged with guiding a youthful defence through troubled waters.
The Republic of Ireland international should soon be given a helping hand by the returning Lamine Kone, however, and O’Shea believes that the Ivory Coast star is one of a number of players who can help spark a revival.
Speaking at the Coral SAFC golf challenge, held at the Ramside Hotel yesterday, O’Shea said: “If we can get him [Lamine], fit, firing and willing to do all he can then he will be massive for us.
“Unfortunately, that injury list has kept on, but slowly there could be some bodies coming back, with the likes of Paddy [McNair] and Jonny [Williams].
“You can tell from the training sessions, these players coming back with the experience and quality that they have – we’re talking about international players here – it is a big boost for everyone.
“We can take some confidence from it for sure.
“[For} the younger boys in the squad, the experience these boys are going to get will be invaluable.
“There’s an intensity but also an enjoyment and a satisfaction from that second half [at Bristol City].
“It will be a priceless experience for them and hopefully we’ll be looking back on it having stayed in the league.”
Sunderland face three games in eight days as the Championship survival fight heats up. The Black Cats host Brentford on Saturday before visiting relegation rivals Bolton on Tuesday and returning to entertain Middlesbrough next weekend.