STEVE Bruce admits that Saturday’s draw against Fulham ups the ante and increases the pressure for the visit of Wigan this weekend.
But he takes encouragement from the belief that his team is slowly but surely going in the right direction.
“We are frustrated because a lot of aspects of our game we could be pleased with,” he said of the 0-0 draw against Martin Jol’s Cottagers.
“People might remember the last 15 minutes when we were all over the place, which was ridiculous, as we chased the game and left ourselves exposed.
“But, for large parts of it, I was very pleased. Overall, we played some very good stuff.
“Pressure is always here at Sunderland and it’s always going to be here.
“The size of the crowd we had at the weekend was terrific and big crowds rightly bring big expectations which naturally means bigger pressure on players.
“So we know we’ve got a very big game against Wigan now.
“But gradually we’re getting a settled look about us.
“Our defence is looking very good, our two centre-halves played exceptionally well against Fulham, my goalkeeper was strong when he needed to be.
“So there are few positives we can take out of it.
“We just need our season to get up and running.”
Bruce had spoken during the week of getting a winner no matter how scrappy or fluky, to kick-start the campaign.
And had Stephane Sessegnon’s deflected 93rd-minute shot not been saved by Mark Schwarzer’s good fortune, it would have fallen firmly into that category.
“Unfortunately, Mark has been frustrating my sides like that for years,” the Sunderland manager smiled wearily. “I thought that was it, thought it was in.
“It takes a deflection, you win 1-0 and all of a sudden we’re up near the top 10 and the feel-good factor starts to flow back.
“We’ll have to wait another week and look to beat Wigan and move on.
“But I do feel that the season is just about to start.
“I know we’ve played a dozen games now, but we’ve now got something like 11 games before the turn of the year, and that will define things.
“We are far, far better defensively now than we’ve ever been.
“So if that’s improved then we have to look at the other end.”