Marc Wilson believes Sunderland took a step towards improved defensive solidity despite the 1-0 defeat to Middlesbrough.
Lee Cattermole returned to the side as Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay looked to improve a chronic defensive record that has blighted the Black Cats so far this season.
Sunderland were undone far too easily just six minutes into the contest as Marcus Tavernier turned home the game’s only goal at the near post, moments after Lewis Grabban had missed a glorious opportunity at the other end.
Wilson said: “I think that [defensive record] falls to the whole team. As a unit we’ve got to be more solid, not just as a defence but a whole team. I think we showed more signs of improving that.
“We were a little bit more resilient. We conceded an early goal but the I thought the two banks of four we set were better. We still need to improve, obviously, but we’ve got to go into the next game and keep pressing.”
“We worked hard this week in training to nail down the shape and be solid as a team. I thought the boys worked really hard to be honest and we got on the ball at times, we just weren’t ruthless enough.
“We were trying to get concentrated on the game after all that was going on at the club this week,” he added.
“We’re disappointed we conceded an early goal and I thought we could have scored a few but I think performance-wise we were better today. It’s about the next game now and trying to dig ourselves out.
“It doesn’t get any lower than where we are. We’ll wait to see what the powers-that-be have to say then get our heads concentrated on the next game. A few boys are going on international duty but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Captain John O’Shea was left frustrated by side’s profligacy in front of goal.
Grabban looked set to put the Black Cats ahead after Didier Ndong saw his long-range effort fumbled by Darren Randolph, but the Republic of Ireland international recovered superbly to deny the in-form striker with his trailing leg.
O’Shea picked up a calf strain during the game but is still expected to join up with the Ireland squad as they prepare for a World Cup play-off against Denmark.
Sunderland are likely to appoint a permanent successor to Simon Grayson during the international break but O’Shea insists the side were well prepared for the Middlesbrough and will be again if no appointment is made.
He said: “We started so well in the game but we keep saying that, we have to take chances, we have to punish teams. Middlesbrough punished us with their chance.
“We had the cutting edge at times, there were some good moments, on another day we’d have scored a couple of goals.
“There was a little bit of good fortune on their part and a little bit of good goalkeeping, I know Darren Randolph very well and he’s produced some good saves today.
“We’ll see what happens at the club but if its Robbie and Billy taking us into the next game, they prepared us well today and they’ll do so again.”