SUNDERLAND’S lack of firepower was made all the more evident following defeat at play-off rivals Coventry as Black Cats boss Tony Mowbray insists he can only ask so much of on-loan striker Joe Gelhardt.

The Black Cats have not won an away match against the Sky Blues since April1985, a run that was stretched to 11 games in all competitions following their weekend defeat.

Goals in either half from Jamie Allen and Gyokeres secured the points for the Sky Blues before Amad Diallo netted a consolation for the Black Cats in injury time.

Sweden international Gyokeres bullied Sunderland’s defence throughout and showed his class to set up Allen’s opener before netting his 15th league goal of the campaign to seal the points late on.

In contrast, Sunderland’s 20-year-old lone striker Gelhardt struggled to make an impact before he was substituted on 70 minutes.

And Black Cats boss Mowbray admits his team needs to find a way to put the ball in the net to ease the goalscoring burden on the youngster after top scorer Ross Stewart suffered a season-ending injury in their FA Cup tie at Fulham.

Mowbray said: “There were lots of positives for us but we’ve got to put the ball in the opposition net.

“There’s no pressure on us, we need to get men in the box, Joe is a young boy who has never played consistent football in his life.

“He’s been in the Premier League and been a sub most of his time, it’s the first time he’s been asked to start football matches and it’s a big ask for him.

“I feel as if we go into games without the tools to win the football match, we have to find a way to score without Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms, it stops becoming an excuse.

“We miss a physical presence in the middle of the goal who makes people confident to put the ball in box.”

Leeds United loanee Gelhardt opened his Sunderland account in defeat at Rotherham United and has scored one goal in six starts for the club.

And Mowbray has backed the youngster to improve his game whilst with the Black Cats who have only scored more than one goal in just two of their last nine league matches.

Mowbray added: “Gelhardt is a boy really and he can get lost amongst three big centre-halves, it’s something we have to keep working on and developing.

“We’ve got an identity, we know what we are, we know we’re a bit light and the transfer window wasn’t the one we wanted, the injury to Ross skewed that.

“We will become the team we want to be at some stage, we’re a couple of strikers away from being a really good team.”

Sunderland sit four points outside of the play-off places after defeat to the Sky Blues who themselves harbour ambitions of mounting a push for the top-six.

Coventry boss Mark Robins was full of praise for the job Mowbray has done at the club since his arrival at the end of August.

Robins said: “In possession they are one of the best teams we’ve played, we think we’ve won the game, there’s literally two minutes to go and we’ve given away a stupid goal.

“With the likes of [Jack] Clarke, [Patrick] Roberts and Diallo in behind Gelhardt, you’d think they lack some physicality but they are physically strong young players.

“They’re really hungry to forge careers for themselves in the game, Aji Alese and Trai Hume are two really good footballers as well.

“The squad that he has put together is really good, they’re nice to watch, easy on the eye and difficult to play against.”

Sunderland’s play-off chances look set to be determined next month with crucial games against fellow top-six contenders Norwich City, Sheffield United and Luton Town.

That difficult run comes after a home match against Stoke City as former Sunderland boss Alex Neil makes his first trip back to the Stadium of Light since his shock departure.