FOR a moment there was a sense Sunderland's Billy Jones was going to burst into a bit of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s There Was a Little Girl poem: 'when we are bad we are horrid’.

Instead he stopped short when he reflected on Sunderland’s recent signs of slight improvement under Chris Coleman. He might as well have.

“When we’ve been bad we’ve been absolutely awful,” said Jones, sitting covered in mud after walking straight into the media suite at the Academy of Light after a midweek training session in the cold.

Well he’s right there. For all that a lot can be said about Sunderland’s three victories under Coleman, the defeats tell a different story. The Black Cats have turned in positive and promising displays over the last eight weeks, but the sooner they forget about the horror shows at Cardiff and Sheffield United the better.

Both of those were bad enough, albeit away from home, but the home defeats to Reading and Barnsley at the Stadium of Light were just as galling. Sunderland return to action on home soil, against another struggler Hull City, and they need to find a match-winning performance.

“It is tough when you’re losing games, home or away,” said Jones. “We know as a group and as individuals that the Cardiff performance was way below par, not acceptable. The gaffer has talked about accountability and taking that for your performance. We’ve got to stick together and remain positive.

“Everyone is a better player when they’re full of confidence and the team is doing well. The gaffer has talked about that mental toughness and you have to show that as a professional footballer. The only way you can move on from poor performances is by winning the next game.

“It is tough when you are not playing well. It’s tough when you are not making passes, even the best players in the Premier League make bad passes. It’s highlighted more at the moment in the stadium.

“As long as the fans see the effort they appreciate that. There have been games where we have come off 0-0, it’s been even, but the fans have appreciated the effort.

“If you show that hard work they will appreciate it, maybe even if you have an off day technique wise they still appreciate your hard work. We have to show that again, get the fans behind us and get them exited. Hopefully we can do that this weekend.”

Things look bleak in the position Sunderland are in at the foot of the Championship. Jones was around at this stage two years ago when they looked dead and buried in the Premier League until Sam Allardyce led a revival.

Rather than suffer relegation, Allardyce danced on the Stadium of Light pitch in front of a packed crowd after wins over Chelsea and Everton kept them up. It might be in a different division, but could Coleman deliver a repeat of a survival act?

Jones said: “Yes, but it takes results to kick-start that and get that momentum. That season you would go out and you just knew you were going to get something, you were all in it and you were all pulling in the same direction. We have to create that again and it starts this weekend, and hopefully getting a big result and carrying on from there.”

There are 19 matches remaining, with Sunderland knowing a victory could lift them out of the bottom three.

Jones added: “Looking at the form guide we have to produce top eight form to stop in this league, that’s the aim to be consistent.

“We have already done a nine game review under the gaffer and that is something that came up. We have to look at the end of the reviews, look at the form guide and we have to make sure we deliver top eight form guide for the next nine matches and until the end of the season.

“The simple thing is to get the positive results because that changes the belief, the confidence. We need that this weekend. You can’t feel sorry for yourself and look for excuses."

What Jones and the rest of the camp are hanging on to is that, despite all of their shortcomings, Sunderland are still in with a chance of staying up.

He said: “We're fortunate to be in that position given the season we have had so far and the way we have performed. If we win this weekend, and results go our way, we could move out of the bottom three, and then you are looking at the teams you can catch and how many points you can get.

“It all has to start with a win this weekend and then following up against Birmingham City in the next game. Back-to-back wins can be massive and put some daylight between you and the bottom three. The gap at the moment is still quite tight and we are lucky from that point of view."