Jack Ross says he will take the brunt of the criticism following the 5-4 defeat to Coventry City at the Stadium of Light - but he admits some of his players were ‘way off’ the standards needed.
Sunderland started the day in second but their automatic promotion hopes took a dent with the defeat in front of their home support, their first loss at home in the league this season.
Ross said it was a ‘sore’ one to take for him the and the players, with Jack Baldwin and Tom Flanagan coming in for the heaviest criticism from supporters.
Sunderland’s defence was cut open too many times, three of the goals coming from individual errors leaving the Scot deeply frustrated.
He did defend his players post-match though and said they had given everything this season so far.
Ross said: “Individually some players did not play well today. There is no point shying away from that but at this stage of the season, with five games to go it is not a day or a time for finger pointing and apportion blame.
“If want you blame people, blame me, aim the criticism at me not my players. They have given an awful lot this season.
“I won’t hide from the fact that some of them individually were way off the levels they need to be at.
“They have to accept that, they will know it, and accept it and then it is how they respond to it.
“We are still in a position where win the five games we get promoted. The only way to guarantee that now is to win all five, that is not easy, it can be done.
“It will bring pressure. I need every single player to go out there to be able to deal with the pressure, I think some of them can do that at the moment, I need others to come along and find the ones that are able to deal with what is going to happen in the next five games.”
The Sunderland boss added: “I am sore, disappointed and frustrated at losing a long unbeaten record in the league at home, losing the record we had here.
“Those emotions would have been the same regardless how it came around then when you add into it the manner in which the game panned out, putting so much into it, on level terms so often, it is a difficult afternoon for us in that respect.
“There is a soreness in the defeat in a lot of different ways.
“The players were similar. They are tired because they put a lot into today, a lot into the last couple of weeks with the fixturews we have hgad.
“When you keep chasing a game in that manner, it takes extra energy each and every time coming back, to do that is a huge positive. And a huge plus.
“They have done that this season but you have to temper that with the fact that you can’t defend in that manner.
“Have the consistency of poor decision making when you are playing against a team with good quality in forward areas, that happened today.
“To defend that way then makes it very difficult to get something from the game.”
When pressed on how concerned he was at how open Sunderland were, first half especially, he added: “We started the game quite well, we then lose our way for a period in the first half, the balance then when you are chasing the game is that it is wide open.
“However, you have to get back into it. You can’t tighten the game up after you’re goals behind, especially when the gap is two goals.
“For us, showing the character we did getting level at half-time allowed us to rectify some things at half-time.
“First part of the second half we were better than the decision making in and out of possession is poor, then having to chase the game again. You can only do it so many times.”