Angry Jack Ross has told his Sunderland players they must improve if they are to win promotion via the play-offs this season.
The Black Cats’ League One fate was confirmed following a dramatic late defeat at Fleetwood Town, Ashley Eastham heading home the winner from a corner in the fifth minute of added-on time.
Sunderland had taken the lead in the 29th minute through Lee Cattermole’s header but an awful second half saw their faint automatic promotion hopes vanish, Joey Barton's Fleetwood scoring twice in the second half.
Luton Town and Barnsley won promotion following Sunderland’s defeat at Highbury Stadium and Portsmouth’s 3-2 home defeat to Peterborough United.
Ross said: “We can’t keep telling the same story or be protective in the same way, we can't keep creating opportunities and not be more ruthless and then capitulate in that manner.
“We should be good enough to win games from winning positions. I am pretty angry at the moment.
“We did enough parts of the game to win it but we didn’t and then we end up on the end of a scoreline that means you know where you will be, missing out on the top two.
“We started the game in a manner that believed it could still do it but we fell short.”
Ross added: “Over the last three games, we have missed collectively Peterborough, Portsmouth, Fleetwood, a lot of good opportunities.
“If you take them then the scoreline in all three games is different. When you don’t take them you have to keep a clean sheet and we haven’t done that. It is not a good recipe.
“The truth is you can’t shy away from it, our results over the last five or six games has not been good enough to get in the top two. That is what cost us.”