CHRIS Coleman has told Sunderland’s players to put thoughts of relegation out of their minds, after they failed to take three points yet again.

The latest setback, a 2-2 draw at Reading, roots the Black Cats to the foot of the Championship with three games remaining – starting with fellow relegation candidates Burton on Saturday.

A wonderstrike by Paddy McNair and a Lee Cattermole header were not enough to leave the Madejski with victory, which would have put safety within four points.

While Coleman was realistic about the current plight, he did not expect his side to already accept life in League One next season.

“Relegation – that’s the dreaded word.

“We’ll have the same week’s training, but the boys have got to show the same mentality, even if things go against us,” he said.

“We can’t throw our arms in the air and feel sorry for ourselves.

“We’ve got to do the opposite of that and go into it with confidence.

“It’s decision making, from individuals and collectively. We conceded against Norwich from set plays.

“You can work on them in training as much as you like, what you can’t replicate is a pressurised situation from a game.

“It is like when you take players from under-23 football and throw them in the deep end, in men’s football, where it is all on it.

“It is hard to copy that pressure.

“So, it is all about decision making. We’re in the bottom three, for a long time, and for a reason.”

“Those crucial, critical questions that are asked we don’t answer them, a lot of that is confidence.

“ This season is like a hangover from last season’s relegation.”

Coleman was not looking at the Burton clash at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as simply a battle of the bottom two in the division.

He said: “It will be the same message.

“You can’t think about what may be, and it’s not about whoever loses could finish bottom.

“We’re still in with an outside chance, and even if we weren’t we are professionals and we have a job to do.”

McNair and Callum McManaman were one of four changes to the starting lineup, along with Marc Wilson and Bryan Oviedo.

Sunderland started on the front foot and forced two corners in the first four minutes that did not trouble Reading.

Ashley Fletcher was finding space on the right flank early on, and helped create the first half-chance on thirteen minutes.

His layoff to George Honeyman was then backheeled into the path of McManaman – however his shot failed to trouble Vito Mannone.

A bright start was dampened with a familiar story for all visiting fans, with a penalty for Reading on the 20th minute.

Having scrambled away a shot by Sone Aluko, Lee Camp then upended Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in the area.

Although he guessed the right way for the spot-kick by Liam Kelly, Camp failed to make amends for his error, with a shot that was just too low and hard to stop.

However, the 33-year old redeemed himself minutes later when he palmed away a strike by the Reading goalscorer with a diving save.

To Sunderland’s credit, the goal galvanised them and some good glimpses of play were shown – if not good luck.

Fletcher found space on the left on 23 minutes to put his effort past Mannone and off the post.

With the ball loose, McManaman pounced but saw Liam Moore clear his effort off the line.

Former Black Cat Mannone was the busier of the two keepers, blocking a Fletcher shot five minutes later, although the follow-up by Aiden McGeady was disappointing.

If Sunderland felt their efforts in the first half went unrewarded, they finally earned some good fortune two minutes after the restart – and in spectacular fashion.

McNair took the ball from just inside the Reading half, and was able to find space to shoot from a good 30 yards out.

His thunderbolt effort stunned both the home fans and Mannone, who was rooted on his line.

This was the first goal Reading have conceded at the Madejski under new manager Paul Clement, and it got even better for the Black Cats and their 1,412 travelling fans on 66 minutes.

McGeady delivered a free kick from just outside the box into the path of skipper Cattermole, who powered his header goalwards to earn a thoroughly deserved lead.

However, the visitors were put on the back foot again with a Reading charge, which ultimately led to a 79th-minute equaliser.

Chris Gunter was allowed to cross into the box on to the head of Yann Kermorgant, who directed his effort past the outstretched Camp.

Although not as late as the Ivo Pinto equaliser against Norwich, the goal earned Sunderland just one point instead of three – and pushed them ever closer to the League One trap door.