Grant Leadbitter urges Sunderland to dig deep in clear message ahead of defining second leg
Grant Leadbitter says Sunderland have to ‘dig deep’ to rescue their fading promotion hopes by producing their best in front of 10,000 fans on Saturday.
The Black Cats conceded two poor second-half goals on Wednesday night to hand Lincoln City a major advantage at the LNER Stadium.
Sunderland had chances to score themselves, but were denied by poor finishing and an excellent display from emergency loan goalkeeper Josef Bursik.
Leadbitter was a second-half substitute and went close to reducing the deficit late on, his effort from range deflected inches wide of the far post.
The midfielder conceded that his team have a significant hill to climb on Saturday, and says digging deep at this stage of the campaign is crucial for any footballer in their career.
“As players we have to dig deep,” he said.
“You have to find something within yourself, you really do.
“At this stage of the season, in those big games, you've got to find that will in your gut.
“You've got to do that to be successful in your career.
“We're going to have to find that best on Saturday and bring it out. We have to win.
“You have to find something inside yourself to win and I believe that we'll do that.”
Though Lincoln had the better of the play through much of the first half, Sunderland’s wastefulness in front of goal through the second proved to the key.
“It's not over,” Leadbitter said.
“We've missed chances at crucial times, I think that's clear to see.
“They took theirs after Bailey hits the bar and that gives them the leg up. Then it's a bit unfortunate with the second goal.
“In a tight game they've taken their chances and we haven't taken ours.”
Lincoln enjoyed the vocal backing of over 3,000 fans on Wednesday night, with the 2-0 win sparking long celebrations as fans left the ground.
That made its mark on Sunderland, with Leadbitter urging his team-mates to use that disappointment.
The return of 10,000 fans to the Stadium of Light is cause for optimism, with Leadbitter saying that it will undoubtedly be a factor in the second leg.
However, he also urged his side not to get carried away chasing the game in the early stages, with Lincoln’s obvious counter-attacking threat again on show on Wednesday.
“Fans coming back is going to have a part to play,” Leadbitter said.
"At the same time, you have to go out and perform on the pitch and not get sucked in by what's going on around you.
“But of course, it's going to be special to have the fans back, we've missed them. I can't wait to have them back.
“You've seen here the impact it can have.
“We're disappointed and we have to use that. We have to do better, we have to take our chances on Saturday.
“We don't have to rush the game, we can't give them that chance to counter-attack.
“We have to stay patient, stick to our performance.
“I believe we can score two goals and win the football game, and then we can take it from there.”