PHIL BARDSLEY admits back-to-back Stadium of Light defeats have taken the gloss off his return to the Sunderland starting line-up.
But the Scotland international has preached a message of unity in Sunderland’s bid to solve the goal drought at the heart of their problems after a fourth blank in five outings again left the Black Cats empty-handed.
Bardsley suffered defeat in his first start of the season in last Tuesday’s Capital One Cup exit to Championship Middlesbrough and there was a repeat of that 1-0 scoreline in Saturday’s loss to fellow strugglers Aston Villa.
Sunderland’s inability to add to their measly tally of six Premier League goals has left Martin O’Neill’s men fifth bottom of the table, ahead of daunting away trips to Everton and Fulham.
Although Bardsley sympathises with supporters, the full-back insists that the spirit in the Black Cats dressing room remains rock-solid and is confident Sunderland will find their shooting boots.
Bardsley told the Echo: “It’s not the way I’d have liked to come back at all with two defeats.
“The fans stayed with us on Saturday, but it must be difficult for them coming to watch us at the moment. Some of the performances have been good, but we need to score a goal.
“When we get one, that will lift the whole place. Everyone knows the problem – it’s not rocket science.
“Everyone needs to do their bit and if we’re not scoring, we need to make sure we keep the ball out at the other end and unfortunately, we didn’t do that on Saturday.
“It was a decent performance from the lads and just a little bit of luck will do.
“You just wonder how we didn’t score a goal and we’re all scratching our heads. But we need everyone with us now – fans, everybody to get behind us and help us out.
“We’re having a bit of a difficult spell, but we’ve got the players in the squad who can find a goal, it’s just a matter of timing.
“The spirit in our dressing room is unbreakable with the group of players we’ve got.
“We’ve got two tough away games coming up, but hopefully we can dust ourselves down, have a little rest and start again in training. Hopefully we can get something at Everton.”
Bardsley admits he is not yet at full match fitness after an ankle injury sustained on only the second day of pre-season training ruled him out of the start of the campaign.
But after completing his first 90 minutes of the season, the former Manchester United defender is hoping for an upturn in both his and Sunderland’s fortunes.
“First and foremost for me, it’s nice to get back on the pitch and playing for Sunderland again,” added the 27-year-old.
“I keep trying to remind myself that I’ve missed a large chunk of pre-season and the start of the season. I’d like to be right at it and I’m trying to get there slowly, but surely.
“Hopefully my fitness levels can get back to the levels they have been for the last couple of seasons sooner rather than later.
“I’d done some work before pre-season, like I normally do, so to get injured the way I did was disappointing. But it’s times for me to start playing some games and start winning.”