John O’Shea knows he and his team-mates could be in for a difficult afternoon on Saturday, and says they must give something back to the support.
The Black Cats sold out their allocation yet again at the Riverside but the mood turned ugly as they fell to another defeat.
Fans sang ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ at the final whistle and with Sunderland potentially facing the drop when Bournemouth visit, the mood could be testing.
O’Shea has no qualms.
He said: “Yeah, look, rightly so. Nobody’s happy at the position we’re in.
“It’s always the case when you’re playing professional sport, elite sport. You have to be able to cope with that pressure, to stand up and be counted. You have to do that under tough conditions.
“Rightly so people won’t be happy. First and foremost when I look around the dressing room I can see there are people hurting massively but when you see the travelling support again, it amazes me every time. They’re going to be looking at us saying, ‘Give us something back at least’ and we have to do that. As players we have to stand up and be counted and do that.”
O’Shea was critical of his own part in Middlesbrough’s opener, Marten de Roon exploiting the space between the centre-half and right-back Billy Jones.
The Irishman bemoaned his team’s lack of cuttting edge in the final third, the Black Cats still without as win since beating Crystal Palace in February.
He said: “Having started the game and been involved in it, it was very frustrating because we had large spells of control of the game. When you’ve started so well to concede the goal we did was disappointing because the first goal in these games is crucial.
“We had plenty of the ball, just not enough of an end product. We controlled practically all of the second half but we conceded that goal. I could have easily done better, myself and Billy could have communicated much better and cut out the space. He stuck the finish through Jordan’s legs as well.
“We had plenty of time to recover from it and thankfully Jordan makes a fantastic save after that.
“We had enough of the ball, enough of the play, but we just didn’t create enough.
“You give yourself the best chance to stay in the game at 0-0. We have to dust ourselves down, we have to have better quality at times and if you give Middlesbrough the chance to sit in and defend like we did you know you have to move the ball quicker, pass the ball quicker out side, create space, run in behind them to create third man runs. If you do enough of that hopefully the ball will fall to you in the right place but it didn’t.”