Lee Johnson's clear message for his Sunderland squad as their winless run goes on

Lee Johnson has said his Sunderland side have to toughen up after losing yet more points from a winning position against Accrington Stanley.

Sunday, 25th April 2021, 9:31 am

The Black Cats were leading 2-0 at the break before a woeful start to the second half let John Coleman's side back into the contest.

An excellent counter-attack got the Black Cats back into the lead but it lasted just two minutes; Sean McConville's free kick earning his side a point they fully deserved in the end.

Sunderland's top-two hopes are now almost entirely extinguished, and they need to arrest their winning run to ensure a place in the play-offs.

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Lee Johnson watches on as his side draw 3-3 with Accrington Stanley

After another bitterly disappointing afternoon, The Echo asked Johnson if the failures of the last two seasons had taken a psychological toll on the players that is now evident.

"There could be," he said.

"I probably haven't been here long enough to read that one.

"I think anxiety can set in but I don't think it should have set in today and it didn't really, it wasn't the start that anxious was it? The start was free flowing and conducive to going on and scoring four or five.

"But there's that little gene in us that we've got to harden up and that's the bit that we'll search extremely hard to find.

"We can't sign an emergency player, unfortunately, but we think we've got the personnel and we can play in a number of different games.

"Over any six, seven game period I suppose the truth comes out. If you're conceding goals, and a lot of them are through individual errors, then that's telling you something.

"You can change the tactics, the players or the manager. We don't want to do any of that, we just want to quickly get back to our strengths."

Blackpool travel to the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night five points behind the Black Cats, having a played a game less.

Neil Critchley's side have lost twice since beating Sunderland at Bloomfield Road last weekend; narrowly beaten by Shrewsbury Town on Saturday afternoon.

Johnson says his side must learn the lessons of their latest collapse quickly if they are to stand any chance of winning promotion at the end of the season.

"You've got to learn your lessons and quickly," he said.

"That could happen for example in a play-off semi final second leg, where you're 2-1 up and you have a bad 15 minutes.

"At that point you've got to be able to revert to your strategy, and the understanding and cohesion that you've got with your team-mates.

"At that point you've got to dig deep, and know how to dig deep, to be able to bring out your best.

"That was the bit we failed on in that 20 minutes, half hour. "

Johnson is still waiting to hear if Dion Sanderson could return to play some part in the run-in.

The Wolves loanee has been with his parent club this week to undergo scans on a back problem that has ruled him out recent games.

Sanderson wants to manage the issue through to the end of the season but the results of the scans will determine whether that is possible.

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