CRAIG GARDNER admits Sunderland’s actions need to speak louder than their words after a third defeat in five kept the Black Cats precariously perched above the relegation zone.
Sunderland were a side of two extremes at Carrow Road yesterday after an utterly hapless opening 45 minutes was followed by a second half where they could, and arguably should, have ended Norwich’s seven-game unbeaten run.
But Sunderland could not make the most of their opportunities to overhaul Norwich’s lead and the 2-1 defeat left Martin O’Neill’s men just a solitary point clear of the bottom three.
Gardner, who provided the spark to Sunderland’s second-half display with his third goal of the season just before the interval, says there were positives to take, but warns that talk is cheap given the Black Cats’ league position.
“We can’t keep standing here, saying ‘we’re going to do it’,” said the midfielder.
“We have to do it now, pick ourselves up and have to do it.
“There’s no excuses any more. We know we can do it.
“If we play like that second half from start to finish, then we’ll win games comfortably. That’s what we need to do.
“I can’t explain it.
“It’s like it took the goal to really lift us.
“But we can’t do that. We need to be lifted from the start.
“We’re going into games that we need to win and making it hard for ourselves.”
Sunderland didn’t lack opportunities to complete their comeback – most notably when Gardner hit the foot of the post, before Matt Kilgallon blazed over with an open goal waiting.
Gardner added: “In the second half, we deserved to win the game.
“That’s maybe the sign of a side that is finding it slowly, but surely, although we need to find it quickly.
“We started off too slowly and before we knew it, we were two goals down.
“I managed to get one back just before the second half and then we came out and I had one cleared off the line, one that hit the post, Killa could have scored, Connor (Wickham) could have scored, Sess (Stephane Sessegnon) could have scored.
“We could have won it 5-2 in the end.”