Jack Ross pinpoints main area of concern for promotion chasing Sunderland - and how he plans to improve fortunes

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Sunderland’s lack of composure, when leading in games, is a growing cause for concern for Jack Ross.

Three League One games on the spin now Sunderland have taken the lead before being pegged back, dropping six points in their hunt for automatic promotion.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

Sunderland manager Jack Ross.

Josh Maja handed the Black Cats the lead just before the hour mark at Scunthorpe United before Adam Hammill’s superb equaliser three minutes from time.

Sunderland remain third but just five points now separate leaders Portsmouth, who lost 2-1 at Oxford United, and fifth-placed Barnsley - the race for promotion hotting up.

Ross admits his Sunderland side have lacked composure in recent weeks and look ‘a bit panicked’ when in front.

It is far from panic stations but Ross has called for a big improvement from all areas, players and staff, as he searches for the solution.

Ross said: “As a unit, the whole team, we have not found the chemistry that has allowed us to keep clean sheets and see games out.

“This was an example of our whole reaction when we are a goal ahead, rather than defending poorly.

“We are not showing enough composure and quality in that time, which surprises me given the quality we have.

“We look a bit panicked. We need to get better at that.

“That time should suit us, when the game opens up, to allow us to pick teams off and get that second goal and right now we are not doing that.”

Ross added: “The place you can affect it most is the confines of your own training ground, whether that is on the pitch or off the pitch with analysis etc.

“We do a lot of work. We need to reflect if it is the right work, do we need to do more of it, does it come down to different combinations of personnel?

“We need to find answers, me and my staff in the first instance and then the players on the pitch.

“It is not panic stations, I am always optimistic and realistic, but the simple fact is we need to get better at it.

“I don’t think it is down to bravery, this group of players has shown courage in lots of different circumstances this season.

“It is more about composure and trusting themselves in that period.

“I am not sure where it has come from, we didn’t have it earlier in the season, recently from winning positions we have looked rushed and panicked and sometimes getting caught up in the emotion of the game, particularly away from home.

“With 15 minutes to go we are running to take quick throw ins. We are winning the game and away from home, we have to manage the game better.

“There are players in there that will learn from that and equally it is up to me to point that out in a constructive manner, so that next time we deal with it better.”

The two points dropped at Glanford Park was softened slightly by Portsmouth’s defeat, though Ross was focused on his own side’s issues in the immediate aftermath.

Ross said: “I don’t give a monkey’s about that right now, it is more about my frustrations with our performance and what we are not doing well enough.

“As the dust settles you do look at that but right now it is more about looking at ourselves and doing things we need to do better.

“The top of the table is as tight as it has been for a while, which is frustrating in one way as you look at the points we’ve dropped from a winning position but equally encouraging to know we are right in amongst it.”