Sunderland need to follow Bournemouth’s example and be “coupon busters” over the next three games to get their survival challenge back on track, admits Billy Jones.
The gap between second-bottom Sunderland and the safety mark was only extended to two points on Saturday, despite Sam Allardyce’s side suffering a second successive defeat.
People might write us off and have us as the underdogs, but we have to put in the performances to get a resultBilly Jones
But a squandered opportunity against Watford could have bigger ramifications over the next two-and-a-half weeks, with Sunderland facing ominous games against Premier League heavyweights Chelsea (this Saturay), Manchester City (Boxing Day) and Liverpool (December 30).
None have proved to be infallible over recent games though, with Bournemouth upsetting the odds to win at Sunderland’s next opponents, Chelsea, nine days ago, before beating Manchester United on Saturday.
Defender Jones says Sunderland are going to have to follow suit now, with Allardyce’s men once more staring down the barrel towards the Championship after the 1-0 weekend loss against Watford.
Jones told the Echo: “It hurts.
“It’s one of those games that – like the fans – you look at and think we can get a result.
“We have to accept that the fixtures coming up are going to be really, really tough, but we have to put in performances that can win the games.
“If you look at recent weeks, at those coupon-busters, they make a difference.
“We’ve got a few of them coming up, so that’s what we have to do.
“People might write us off and have us as the underdogs, but we have to put in the performances to get a result.”
As against Arsenal seven days earlier, Sunderland paid the price for a lack of precision with their finishing against the Hornets after Fabio Borini and Adam Johnson both spurned golden chances, while Jermain Defoe was denied by a superb save from Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes.
But Sunderland were left chasing the game for an equaliser after an awful opening 15 minutes, when the visitors could feasibly have been 3-0 up.
“We’re really, really disappointed with our start,” said Jones.
“You need to make a good start in the Premier League to set the tone, especially at home.
“We gave away a goal and they could have scored again with a goalmouth scramble.
“But at 1-0, you’ve always got a chance and we were saying that at half-time.
“We needed to produce in the final third more and we really went for it.
“We feel we made enough chances to at least get a draw.”
Jones was culpable in those early exchanges in an unfamiliar centre-back role after he was unexpectedly thrust into action following the illness to Younes Kaboul.
The ex-West Brom man looked far more comfortable at right-back after Allardyce made an early change and reverted to a 4-3-3 set-up.
Jones added: “Usually during the week, you get an idea of who might be starting the game on a Thursday, and then it gets announced on the Friday. That’s the way the gaffer works.
“I wasn’t in the team and then I got a phone call off Brace (Paul Bracewell, assistant manager) saying that Younes was ill, so he was missing the game.
“You just have to be as professional as you can, so I was ready to come in. But it was just disappointing to come in and get that defeat.”