Max Power admits that too many draws this season could cost Sunderland automatic promotion.
Peterborough United’s late equaliser on Monday afternoon means that the Black Cats’ destiny is now out of their own hands.
Sunderland have now drawn 18 games this season, five more than any other side in the division.
Power fears that could prove to be the difference but insisted that it wasn’t over yet, and urged his team-mates to take maximum points from their three games.
“There’s no point dressing it up, it’s unacceptable, especially at this stage of the season,” Power said.
“To score that late on in a performance where it’s red-hot on the pitch, you’ve put so much into it. It’s tough to take, really tough to take.
“It’s happened one too many times this season.
“With three games left all we can do now is take maximum points and see where it takes us.
“We all feel as if we owe Portsmouth one but at this stage of the season we can’t get too down about it. We’ve just got to recover now and win three games, simple as that.
"I’m not going to sugar-coat it, we’ve drawn far too many games. If we don’t go up is Peterborough the one that’s cost us? Not for me, it’s happened too many times. We should be out of sight, we’re not.
“We’ve got three games left, one of them’s against Portsmouth so we can go back above them then it’s unfortunately us depending on Barnsley slipping up.
“Come the end of the season we’ll finish on a points total we deserve, everyone does.
“There’s no luck to where you finish,” he added.
“There’s no hiding from that.
“If that’s not automatic it’ll be disappointing and we’ll have to go into the play-offs but no one wants that. There’s still three games to go.
“You look at Wigan going to Leeds last week – no one expected them to win. We’re going to need something like that with Barnsley.
“We’ve just got to focus on Portsmouth and beat them.
“We’ll see where we end up. We’ve got to win three games, that’s it.
“We can’t afford to drop any points now. We couldn’t really afford to drop any on Monday but we did. It’s advantage Barnsley at this point.
“The Portsmouth game is the last home game of the season so we want to put on a performance for the home fans. We were backed again on Monday with great numbers.
“It’s a tough one to take.”
One potential source of encouragement for the Black Cats is the way the promotion race has swung so many times this season.
A bizarrely large relegation battle and five remarkably consistent sides fighting it out at the top has led to a number of shock twists.
Almost every side at the top has given up the initiative at some point and Sunderland must hope it proves to the be the case again.
“I’ve spoken before about the challenges we’ve faced this season,” Power said.
“I’ve played for Wigan who are a great club but it’s not a club the size of Sunderland and playing for a club this size comes with the territory of everyone raising their game. It was probably their biggest crowd of the season and we’ve had to deal with it all season.
“But I’ll never look for excuses, I’ll never sugar-coat anything.
“If we don’t go up automatically, we haven’t been good enough to, that’s the black and white.
“The club’s come a long way for where it’s been the last few years. It’s certainly a rebuilding process but I’ve never shied away from the fact I’m here to get promoted. Hopefully we achieve that and it’s automatic but if not we’ll have to address the play-offs.
“We’re good enough to get out of the division, I really do think that, but the fact of the matter is we’ve drawn too many games and it could cost us, there’s no hiding away from that fact.
“Let’s just go and win three games and see where it takes us.
“I’ve been involved in promotion run-ins a few times in this league and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this amount of teams with this amount of points,” he added.
“It’s been one of them seasons where I feel we could have been out of sight but we haven’t so there’s no point dwelling on it. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing and we’ll finish where we deserve to finish.
“If that’s not automatic we’ve got to swallow that and go the play-off route. If we get there, we’ll deserve to get there.”