Sorting out Sunderland's defence the priority for caretaker duo

Caretaker duo Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay
Caretaker duo Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay
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Robbie Stockdale admits that sorting out Sunderland's ailing defence is the priority for himself and fellow caretaker boss Billy McKinlay.

The pair lead a side with the second worst defensive record in the league, only Burton Albion conceding more.

Garry Monk's Middlesbrough side have found form in recent times and will pose a stern threat come Sunday lunchtime.

Stockdale said: "We haven't got an awful lot of time to work on the finer details of that [defensive organisation].

"Usually when teams are at the wrong end of the table and struggling to win games, scoring goals is the problem. With us, it's the other way around.

"Lewis is doing really well and he is scoring different types of goals, which is important.

"We're a threat going forward with McGeady, and whoever we decide to play off the other side.

"We are going to try and work on that and address it. It will be difficult against Middlesbrough because they have some good attacking players, but that [keeping a clean sheet] has to be the starting point for any team."

The Black Cats defence has come in for stern criticism after the 3-3 draw with basement side Bolton Wanderers; all four boasting Premier League and international experience.

Stockdale and McKinlay will consider making changes for the trip to Teesside but has warned that the whole side must chip in if Sunderland are to finally produce a clean sheet.

He said: "Certainly not [short on experience]. But if we want to keep clean sheets, we need 11 players to be getting it right.

"We'll organise them as best we can, the players will know their roles and responsibilities, and we are very confident that if they fulfil those, we will get a result.

"I’m not going to sit here and say we’ll make changes left, right, and centre, I think that would be wrong. Certainly we’ve conceded too many goals and that needs addressing. We can’t be scoring three goals and drawing the game, certainly not."

Stockdale was promoted to the first team coaching staff by Sam Allardyce, and admits he will be drawing on some of his ideas as he looks to solve the defensive crisis.

He is also thankful for McKinlay's presence and says he believes the two are singing from the same hymn sheet.

He said: "I would say as a player and a coach, you take things from everybody, Sam was a big influence on me no doubt but there were things that David and Simon did that you think yeah, I agree with that. You’re always taking those nuggets of information on board.

"Billy is very experienced in the game, he’s been a manager before himself, he can bring some invaluable information from that. I know the players a little bit better in terms of their capabilities, but in the same way that fresh pair of eyes, you go, ‘yeah I can see that point of view.’

"To be honest we’ve not really reached that [selection debate], we’ve not been too far away on anything so far."