'We’re sorry': Carl Winchester apologises for Doncaster defeat but insists Sunderland can bounce back with help from Jermain Defoe

Carl Winchester insists Sunderland still have the quality to turn things around this season – and believes the whole squad can learn from new signing Jermain Defoe.

The Black Cats are on a wretched run of form which has seen them win just one of their last six League One fixtures.

An untimely slump has seen the team lose significant ground on rivals Rotherham in the race for automatic promotion, while second-place Wigan are two points ahead of Sunderland with four games in hand.

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In front of a bumper crowd of 38,395, many of whom were eager to see Defoe, Sunderland weren’t able to deliver as they were beaten 2-1 by bottom of the table Doncaster Rovers.

Carl Winchester ahead of Sunderland's League One fixture against Doncaster.

As the club continues the process to recruit a new head coach, there is even more pressure ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Cheltenham.

“It’s frustrating more than anything,” Winchester told the Echo following the Doncaster defeat. “We can’t go 2-0 down, no disrespect, to a team bottom of the league.

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“We just need to get together and then focus on Tuesday, it’s a massive game Tuesday.

“The crowd were unbelievable, 38,000, fair play to them, they’ve worked hard all week to come here and it’s up to us to put a performance on.

“It just wasn’t there, we’re sorry that we let everyone down.

He added: “It’s hard but look we have quality and know we have quality in that changing room that can win games for us.

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“It’s just not working well at the minute but we have to get back to what we were doing well and focus on the next game which is massive on Tuesday.”

Defoe’s return had raised spirits on Wearside following the 6-0 thrashing at Bolton.

The 39-year-old striker has said he will always be approachable to provide advice for team-mates, with the club looking to achieve the ultimate goal of finally winning promotion from League One.

“It’s a massive lift for everyone, we know what a quality player he is and his experience,” replied Winchester when asked about Defoe. “Hopefully he can get us up this season.

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“You have just seen the reception. It just gives everyone a lift and a buzz, to have him in the changing room with us it’s brilliant.

“He’s experienced and will talk to the young lads, he’s just good to have in the changing room and everyone can learn from him which I think is great.”

While confidence is low after a couple of damaging defeats, Winchester says the team can still make this a successful campaign with 16 league games remaining.

“You have seen all season that we can go and hurt teams,” he added. “It’s just now getting out there to do it and getting the confidence back and getting some belief again.

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“I know it’s going to be hard to get that belief after that. I understand it’s frustrating for everyone but stick with us because you have seen this season we are capable of it.

“There is no ifs, buts and maybes, you have to deliver and obviously we fell short but we have players in that changing room which I believe can deliver.”

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