'Lots of work to do': Alex Neil delivers this honest assessment of his Sunderland squad and first game
Alex Neil admits he has a 'lot of work to do' after his first Sunderland game ended in a 1-1 draw with AFC Wimbledon.
Neil felt the host's first-half penalty, awarded for a handball by Callum Doyle, was 'extremely harsh' but conceded that his side ultimately didn't do enough for the three points.
"I thought the penalty was extremely harsh, first of all," Neil said.
"It wasn't travelling towards goal, he’s a yard away, and it's not as if he's making himself bigger to block a goalbound effort. Extremely harsh.
"I thought Pritch produced a moment of quality again, but we're disappointed with the naivety of our play at times.
"I thought there were mistakes and errors that we wouldn't expect.
"We had a couple of good moments, some good chances, but not enough moments.
"It's a platform in terms of, we've lost three in a row and that's a point, but if we want to be in the mix come the end of the season then we've got a lot of work to do."
Neil has had only one 40-minute session with his players to date, which makes next week key.
The Scot says as well as a lack of confidence, he sees signs of fatigue in a youthful squad that he needs to address.
"We've got to get our ideas into them next week," he said.
"What struck me about that team was that I think there were seven players under the age of 22.
"So there's not a lot of experience there and there's a gap in terms of, experienced players have come into the club but they've not had many minutes, so they're coming from a standing start.
"Then you have a lot of lads in their first year and at the minute, a lot of them look tired.
"Ultimately, we haven't got a huge of amount of options so that's something I need to have a good look at.
"I need to get minutes into these experienced players because they are key players if I can get them going. The difficulty I've got is that I've got very limited time in which to do that.
"We've got quality, but we're young and naive in certain areas of the pitch, They have quality too, but it's about game understanding, knowledge, which comes from repetition, matches, and that will be a focus for us without overloading them.
"I don't know if it's fatigue or lack of fitness, when it became a transition game in the last 20 minutes, that should suit us with the quality we've got.
"I didn't think it looked as if we had enough legs to get about the pitch and become really dangerous on the break as well.
"Confidence is a massive thing, too, obviously.
"We've got to understand where these boys are in their development.
"If you look at Ross, he's probably not played as many games as this in a season and we've still got another third to go.
"So that's tough for him, and he looked a bit jaded, which is why I took him off.
"We've got to protect these boys, so that we try and freshen them up for these games physically and mentally.
"These next few games are going to be really important."