Last Updated: Sun, 09 Dec 2012 16:30
Skipper John O'Shea has warned Sunderland they cannot afford to wait until setbacks strike to start playing.
The Black Cats mounted a spirited fightback against European champions Chelsea on Saturday, but only after falling behind early on and then allowing the visitors to establish a 3-0 lead.
They did much the same at Norwich last weekend, when they counted themselves unfortunate not to return from Carrow Road with a point despite conceding twice.
Manager Martin O'Neill was able to take positives from the second-half performances in particular in both games, but his side slipped into the relegation zone, exactly where they were when he took over a year ago.
Victory in the re-arranged home game against Reading on Tuesday night is a must if they are to restore confidence ahead of an intensely difficult run of fixtures, but O'Shea admits they will have to become more proactive if they are to dig themselves out of a hole largely of their own making.
He said: "The league doesn't end after the Reading game, fortunately. We know it's a massive game, every game at home now is going to be a massive game.
"We have to show the belief and the confidence we have shown in the second-half performances and the way we have taken the games to the opposition.
"But we have to do that from the start and not just wait for a goal to be conceded to show that reaction. We need to show that beforehand rather than a reaction."
The statistics make increasingly depressing reading for the red and white faithful. Sunderland have now won just two of their last 23 league games; their last three league wins have come against 10 men and they have not beaten a team which finished a game with a full complement since March.
O'Neill's first 10 league fixtures yielded seven wins and a draw, and a return of 22 points from a possible 30; the last 29 have resulted in just four wins, 13 draws and 25 points from a total of 87.
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