Jack Ross has urged his players not to panic after their woeful second-half showing at Fleetwood on Tuesday night.
Ross spoke bluntly after the game about the need for significant improvement ahead of the play-off campaign.
In particular, greater ruthlessness is required in both boxes.
But Ross has also stressed to his sides in team meetings this week that they cannot afford to panic.
He has been pleased with large parts of their performances in the last five games, even if they won only once.
“We have regular meetings anyway,” Ross said.
“Partly analysis, partly anything else that we need to cover.
“We had one on Thursday which was looking at Saturday in terms of Southend but also a bit of reflection not just on Tuesday but the last three games. Then looking to what lies ahead.
“It was just that reinforcement of the significance of the games but also quite a lot of reinforcement not to panic.
“You’ve got to retain an element of calmness at this club. The key thing for us is not to work hard for 57 games to get to the stage where you creak under the pressure.
“We’re in a position where we still have a good chance of promotion.
“When I speak to the players individually I get a gauge for where they’re at as a group and they’re OK.”
Taking chances will be vital if Sunderland are to get over the line but the second half at Fleetwood was one in which they lost their way badly.
Ross admits it underlined the need for his team to improve in games when the opposition tweak their shape or style.
The Black Cats says that ultimately is his responsibility to improve.
“First of all, Fleetwood change shape quite a lot during the game.
“They changed from a back three to a back four, back again and then back again.
“The first half, what we had prepared for, what we thought would happen, how we would combat that and what we thought we could do well, worked perfectly.
“I suppose there’s two sides to that.
“One, if you maximise the opportunities while you’re on top the whole game becomes completely different, if you get that second or third, which we could have, the whole game is different.
“Whereas at one there’s always that encouragement for the opposition.
T”hey changed how they played slightly second half but then we need to be, for some of the younger ones that played, they need to have that understanding of what they need to do [in response],” he added.
“We can tweak some of it from the sidelines but you can’t do it at half-time when you don’t know exactly what the opposition will change.
“Sometimes you have to do it in the game and we have to get better at adjusting to what teams will do to try and stop us.
“That responsibility will always fall on me but it’s about encouraging that responsibility on the pitch as well.”