Max Power gives candid assessment of Sunderland's woes, angry fan chants and what's gone wrong
Max Power made his way round the Stadium of Light turf at full-time, applauding those who had witnessed a brutal closing 20 minutes.
That Sunderland had gone behind with to such a soft goal was one thing, but the response, or lack of, was another.
An insipid Black Cats side failed to muster a shot, Nigel Clough’s side creating all the opportunities to extend their lead further.
Phil Parkinson and his squad felt the ire of the support in the final minutes, and again at the full-time whistle. Sunderland dropped to 11th in the table, a valuable opportunity to wrestle back some momentum wasted.
For Power it was an understandable reaction, and the frustration was visible an hour later.
The 26-year-old insists this squad is capable of being higher in the table, and bemoaned the lack of clean sheets that continues to blight their season.
Sunderland had been ahead barely a minute on Tuesday night when Ryan Edwards levelled, and the lack of confidence after Burton’s second was clear to see.
“It’s natural frustration [from the fans],” he said.
“We go in front, the place is rocking, and then two minutes later it’s 1-1.
“It’s frustrating for everyone.
“Second half, we’re on top, we look like the side that’s going to win it, the fans are right behind us, then we concede and the response to that from us as players wasn’t good enough.
“We didn’t show enough courage at that point to keep getting on the ball and trying to do the right things.
“I understand the frustration from the fans.
“No matter what I say in the media, it’s not words that are going to help things at the moment, it’s what you do on the pitch.
“We know we haven’t kept enough clean sheets this season and we’ve not scored when we’re on top [in games].
“You’re talking about two important things.
“That’s all of us collectively. It’s easy to point fingers and blame and I don’t like that culture, collectively we’ve got to do better.
“We’ve got to find a way of keeping clean sheets, simple as that,” he added.
“We’ve gone to Sheffield United, Burnley, albeit they’re cup games with a different feel, but there’s good players in this squad.
“I’ve had success in this division before and there’s players who are above this level.
“At the moment, I’m saying that and people might disagree, people will have their opinions and that’s fine, but at the moment we’re in a tough period where’s there’s no hiding place.
“You’ve got roll your sleeves up and find that way of winning football matches.
“We’ve got to take the criticism that comes our way and stand up and be counted.”
This was the second time Sunderland’s players have faced cries of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ in recent weeks.
The first had come from the travelling support, in the final stages of a woeful defeat at Scunthorpe United. The stakes were higher now and so was the anger.
As Power noted, the Stadium had stuck with the side through a tepid first half and the decibels went up when the Black Cats started the second on the front foot.
It couldn’t last, not after the response in the closing stages, and mustering a response is the challenge for Parkinson and his squad.
Power insists he will keep fighting to achieve his goals on Wearside, urging the players to stick together and work through this patch of poor form.
“It should hurt,” he said.
“It’s football. If you’re not winning games, criticism comes your way. That happens everywhere.
“You can go two ways, let it affect you and duck under it, if you look at the player turnover here over the last few years, it’s clearly affected a lot of players.
“I certainly don’t want to leave this club without having achieved what I set out to do which is to get out of this division.
“At the moment it looks a long way away but things can change quickly in football.
“I’ll keep going, I’ll keep doing everything I can and hopefully we can turn the corner at some point.
“These tough times do come in football, it’s about rolling your sleeves up, finding that bit of quality and getting that confidence back.”
“It’s a really disappointed dressing room,” he added.
“Words were said, but again, for me the top and bottom of it is we’ve not kept enough clean sheets and when we’ve been in periods of games where we’re on top, we’ve got to go in front.
“It’s tough after games because sometimes you need to see things back, emotions are high and it’s raw.
“It’s a difficult period, football isn’t easy.
“I’ve been through tough periods in my career before and I’d like to think I’ve come through them. I won’t change, I’ll keep working hard.
“We’ve got to stick with it. It’s a cop out to say, tough club to play for, this that and the other. That fifteen minutes at the start of the second half, the place is rocking and you’re thinking, ‘right, come on, we’re on top here’. We concede a goal and don’t respond, simple as that.”