BRYAN OVIEDO admits Sunderland’s players have to start displaying some mental resolve if they are haul themselves out of the drop zone and avoid relegation to League One.

It has been a case of ‘one step forward, two steps back’ for quite a while now with the Black Cats, with the occasional good performance tending to be sandwiched between a couple of below-par displays.

A battling away win at Nottingham Forest at the end of December was followed by a poor performance against Barnsley and a disastrous display at Cardiff, while last month’s battling success over Hull City was followed by Tuesday night’s horror show at St Andrew’s that saw Sunderland crash to a deserved defeat at the hands of Birmingham.

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Consistency is proving elusive, and for all that the Sunderland squad might lack quality in some areas, it is a lack of mental fortitude that is proving especially crippling.

In part, that can be explained by the presence of so many inexperienced young players in the squad, but with Chris Coleman having added Lee Camp, Kazenga LuaLua and Ashley Fletcher to the group in the last few days, Oviedo is hoping to see a change of mind-set in the remaining 17 games of the season.

“I think it’s all about mentality,” said the full-back. “We need to get a good, winning mentality. Sometimes, we don’t have that and if we play like that, we cannot win games.

“We need to start hard in the first second, running for every ball and fighting for every ball. In the Championship you need to fight, you need to run and be strong in every aspect.

“We need to do what we did in the last 20 minutes of the Birmingham game from the start of every game. We were strong and fighting for every ball. Sometimes, we play a little scared, but we need to look at ourselves because we have to be better.”

As one of the more experienced members of the squad, Oviedo accepts he needs to start leading by example as Sunderland look to clamber out of the bottom three.

John O’Shea should return to the starting line-up this afternoon after missing Tuesday’s game at Birmingham through an illness, and the Irishman’s experience could be crucial as the Black Cats look to shackle an Ipswich side that scored five goals in the game at Portman Road in September.

Sunderland were embarrassed that night, and Oviedo feels the club’s senior players have to come to the fore to ensure there is no repeat when Mick McCarthy’s side visit the Stadium of Light.

“We have a young team and a lot of young players, and they are really good and need to work hard,” said the Costa Rica international. “Sometimes, it is easy to start playing when the team is winning, but at the moment we’re only winning one game at a time.

“We need to change that aspect, and the young players need to help us. But as experienced players, we also need to help them because they are good and they have the spirit for fighting, especially in the Championship. It’s not an easy league and you have to be strong physically. Everyone needs to be ready for that.”