SUNDERLAND manager Steve Bruce accepts his side could be guilty of believing the hype surrounding the club’s best start to a Premier League campaign.
Prior to the club’s trip to newly-promoted Burnley the Black Cats had deservedly taken the plaudits for their most accomplished beginning to a top-flight campaign in nearly 30 years.
Nine points from their opening five fixtures represented Sunderland’s biggest points return since the beginning of the 1980/81 season, and had the club’s supporters discussing the real prospect of mounting a UEFA Cup challenge.
But all that precocious talk was silenced by a below par performance in a 3-1 defeat at Turf Moor.
“We’d got off to a decent start to the season and now it’s just an OK start,” said a clearly frustrated Bruce after the match.
“Had we got something out of the game we would have had ten points, which would have been a good return from six games. But the ugly side of us is still there.
“We’re too easy to play against at times and it’s too easy to score a goal. The first one we conceded was awful, the other two were good goals.
We’ll have to improve on that.”
The defeat followed the won one, lost one Premier League fixture pattern since the curtain was raised on the new campaign.
If Sunderland want to fulfil their potential and maintain a European challenge this term then they will need to improve on their inconsistent start.
Defender Phil Bardsley agrees.
“These are the places we’ve got to come to and get something,”
said the Black Cats full back.
“The manager said before the game that games like this can define your season, and have a big say in where you want to be.
“We’ve got to start putting some wins together. We’ve been a bit up and down so far this season.
“When we have done well we’ve been hard to deal with for some teams.
“Now we need to get that over the full 90 minutes rather than just one half. If we do that then I’m sure we’ll start going in the right direction.
“But the defeat is difficult to take because we fully controlled the game, for the first half especially.
“I thought we dominated the first half, but in the second half I don’t think we really got going. As soon as they scored we were chasing the game and we got caught by the suckerpunch for the third goal.”
The former Manchester United defender was at a loss to explain why his side was so listless after the break.
He added: “We felt confident going into the second half that we could get the three points, but we just didn’t start. It’s that consistency thing we need.
“It was disappointing to start so well and then concede so soon afterwards. But if you make mistakes that’s what happens and we shot ourselves in the foot.
“The dressing room was pretty quiet afterwards, it’s difficult to take a defeat and that one was particularly hard to take. It’s how we react now.
“If we want to be up there in that top ten and pushing other teams then we’ve got to come to places like Burnley and pick up points.”