Sunderland stopper Jon McLaughlin has promised fans that there is even more to come from the Black Cats this season.
Back-to-back home draws have stifled the progression of Jack Ross’ side - who still remain unbeaten in League One despite those dropped points at the Stadium of Light.
The last week has seen Oxford and Fleetwood both put in strong performances on Wearside after capitalising on some poor openings from the Black Cats.
But summer signing McLaughlin feels Sunderland arestarting to combat that, and has backed his side to become ‘unstoppable’ as the season progresses.
Joey Barton’s Fleetwood proved a stern test for the Black Cats on Saturday - especially in the opening exchanges as the home side endured yet another slow start.
That, the stopper believes, is partly down to teams raising their games as they look to put in their ‘best performance of the season’in front of a large crowd at the Stadium of Light.
“It’s inevitable,” said McLaughlin.
“But when you’re in these divisions and there is a club that’s out of place, such a huge club that you’ve never been able to play against at this level, it raises their game.
“No disrespect to anyone at all, but it’s different surroundings to what they’re used to.
“It’s a completely different size crowd, so that raises them and they want to put in their best performance on the big stage and show off what they can do.
“It makes things even more difficult because, not only are you going to face a tough enough test every week, there’s the added that they’re putting in everything they can for their best performance of the season.
“It means there’s no easy games, and that why the starts have been so difficult.
“Everyone comes out here wanting to impress on you from the start and see if they can ruffle your feathers and put in a shock result.”
The last two home games have seen Sunderland stumble out of the starting blocks and concede early, while defending set pieces has also proved to be an achilles heel.
Indeed, only once this season have the Black Cats taken the lead in a game - and McLaughlin feels there are several causes for this.
“There are a lot of factors,” he admitted.
“We have to work tirelessly on the training pitch on set pieces and things so that everybody knows their jobs, everybody does it and everybody cares as much about coming back and defending set pieces as they do about going forward and it’s just as important, not just for goalkeepers and defenders but for, everyone to be switched on all the time to keep the ball out of the net on a set piece or in the early part of games.
“We don’t have to win games in the first ten, 15 minutes. The longer the game goes, the more our qualities will show.”
While slow starts and set pieces are the negatives, there are plenty of positives to take from Sunderland’s unbeaten start.
And McLaughlin, while keen to praise the early stages of the campaign, feels there is plenty more to come.
“It’s been a positive start, but there’s plenty more to come from myself and all the players, and collectively.
“There wouldn’t be many clubs in this position in the league still knowing that there is so much more that we can put out there and so much better that we can get.
“There’s plenty for us still to work and we’re certainly staying humble in this division.
“We know there’s so much work to do and that clubs have got quality players, are set up well, know how to play and of course come to our place willing to do everything to get that result.
“We’re under no illusions but we also know that if we can get the work right, then we should be unstoppable.”