AN individual error may have cost Sunderland valuable points in their fight for survival on Wednesday, but Jack Colback insists the whole squad must take responsibility for their struggle at the bottom of the Premier League.
The Black Cats suffered a damaging 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa on New Year’s Day with Lee Cattermole’s costly error leading to Gabby Agbonlahor hitting a 15th minute winner at the Stadium of Light.
The former Middlesbrough midfielder failed to control a pass from Valentin Roberge 30 yards out, allowing the Villa forward to steal the ball, round Vito Mannone and slot home eight yards out.
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Cattermole almost gifted Agbonlahor a second goalscoring opportunity fifteen minutes later and he was subsequently brought off by Gus Poyet at half time after supporters had made their feelings clear before the break.
However, Colback insists the blame doesn’t lie solely with Cattermole and admits the whole squad must take responsibility for their failure to get back into the game.
“We've got to lick our wounds, come out fighting and show character and belief and make sure we take the opportunities that we've got,” said Colback, who expects to be at the Stadium of Light beyond the transfer window despite being out of contract in the summer.
“These things happen. Everyone is responsible for playing well and playing badly. It's football and everyone makes mistakes. There was nothing said in the dressing room.
“We had a chance to maybe get out of the bottom three if we'd have won and we've been slowly chipping away. Every time we seem to do something good we seem to follow it up with something disappointing. We've got no choice but to go on and try to pick up something in the next game.”
While it was Cattermole’s error that led to Paul Lambert’s men taking an early lead, the Black Cats struggled to put pressure on their opponents in the second period even though they were unlucky to see Emanuele Giaccherini’s goal ruled out for offside.
The result also meant Sunderland have failed to win on Wearside since the November 10 victory over Manchester City and Colback admits time is running out for the struggling Black Cats, who face Carlisle United in the FA Cup on Sunday.
He said: “We should have won the Villa game. Coming into it we were looking for the three points but we weren't good enough on the day.
“We've got to dust ourselves off and go again. It's obviously hugely disappointing. The games are running out and we're missing opportunities to take points at home. We've got to keep going.
We created a lot of chances. If we had scored it would completely change the game. Getting it back to 1-1 would have got the momentum behind us but we couldn't do that and it's difficult at the moment. We have got belief but it is frustrating. We've improved a lot but playing well and getting beaten isn't good enough in the situation we're in. We need to pick up points as soon as we can.”
The defeat to Villa also represents another missed opportunity against a team in and around the bottom half with their wins this season coming against the likes of Man City, Newcastle, Everton and Chelsea.
Colback admits he can’t explain why the Black Cats are struggling against teams in a similar position to themselves, but in turn believes the squad is capable of getting results in the coming months.
“I'm not sure why we can beat those teams at the top but not those around us,” Colback said. “We've beaten Newcastle, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea but fallen short in the games we should have won.
“Maybe it's the added pressure of being expected to win at home and the crowd gets frustrated when we're not doing that, performing and winning the games. We've got to be able to deal with that and we've got to be able to do that soon.
“We can beat anyone. The league has been that way all season. Every weekend there's a result that you weren't expecting to happen.”
Wednesday’s defeat saw Sunderland slip four points adrift at the bottom, but Colback is confident his side can avoid the drop.
He said: “We're absolutely convinced we can do it. Teams get written off too quickly at both ends of the table. We've got full belief in ourselves. It can change week-by-week.
We're capable of bridging that four point gap.”