LEE JOHNSON admitted he felt “let down” by his Sunderland players as their hopes of securing automatic promotion suffered a major blow at Wigan Athletic last night.

The Black Cats crashed to their second defeat in the space of four days as the concession of two goals from corners resulted in them suffering a 2-1 defeat to the Latics.

The defeat means Sunderland remain five points behind second-placed Peterborough United, having now played the same number of matches, and eight points adrift of leaders Hull City, who have played one more game than the Black Cats, who they entertain at the KCOM Stadium next Tuesday.

The automatic-promotion battle is no longer in Sunderland’s own hands, and having watched his players toss away a first-half lead secured through Charlie Wyke’s 28th goal of the season last night, Johnson admitted he was left deflated by his side’s display.

“There were too many times on the day where individuals didn’t quite produce their best,” said the Sunderland boss. “It was frustrating. I felt a little bit let down to be honest, with parts of the performance.

“I’m the first to believe in these lads. I believe that they’re good and I’ve really enjoyed working with them. I really believe we can go and be successful as a team and as a football club. Naturally, you grow bonds within it, so when that happens today, it can be quite emotional.

“We’ve got to hold our hands up and say, ‘Look, we weren’t good enough, it’s as simple as that. They deserved to win’. It was probably balanced in the middle part of the pitch, but in both boxes, they were better than us.”

Sunderland were the better side for the opening half-hour, and looked to be heading for all three points when Wyke volleyed home Aiden McGeady’s cross.

However, Will Keane scored after the Black Cats’ defenders failed to deal with a corner at the end of the first half, and Callum Lang bundled home from close range as Wigan profited from another set-piece shortly before the hour mark.

Sunderland have made a habit of conceding from set-pieces in recent weeks, a failing that is causing Johnson understandable frustration. However, even when his side was on top in the opening stages of last night’s game, he did not feel satisfied with their performance.

“Obviously, goals change games,” he said. “It’s been another scenario where we haven’t defended a set-play. In the last ten games or so, there’s been too many of those. It’s disappointing because you can’t keep giving teams a leg-up, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t think we deserved it today.

“Even in the first half-hour where we were fluid on the ball, our off-the-ball connection and distances were always going to play into the hands of any opposition, let alone Wigan who are on good form, and allow them to create space. Five or six games ago, we weren’t conceding any shots on target because of our solidness."