CHRIS COLEMAN will spend the next 24 hours trying to convince Sunderland’s players that this season is not guaranteed to end in disaster ahead of a trip to Bolton he describes as “the biggest” so far.

The Black Cats’ position in the Championship’s relegation zone took another turn for the worse on Saturday when Brentford were allowed to leave the Stadium of Light with a pretty routine victory.

Sunderland started dreadfully and never recovered, allowing the Bees to head into half-time two goals to the good courtesy of goals from Kamo Mokotjo and Neal Maupay.

It was exactly what the home side deserved and Sunderland now head to Bolton, sitting four points above them in the battle to survive, three points adrift of safety and Hull City have a game in hand.

The manner of the latest loss, the result of arguably the worst first half performance of the season so far, has increased the fears that League One football will be played on Wearside come August.

But Coleman cannot afford to think like that and he is determined to make sure his players do not accept relegation with 14 matches still to play.

He said: “At every club it’s what happens on the pitch. If you’re winning on the pitch you can cover up a multitude of sins. We all know that, we’ve been in it long enough. If you’re losing on the pitch and off it, those little cracks become chasms.

“But we don’t have to suffer for the remainder of the season, we don’t have to be a team that’s suffering, that look like we’re not ready for what’s in front of us, that ekes our way through 90 minutes because everything’s too much for us – it doesn’t matter what we do because we’ll lose and the club’s doomed and it’s negative.

“We can look at it that way if we want to but I refuse to look at it that way – ever.

“It’s a huge challenge, but we’ve shown that when we really want to we can, we don’t want to enough times.”

The size of that challenge Coleman talks of will be determined again on Tuesday night when Sunderland head to 20th placed Bolton knowing a defeat would push them further towards the drop.

He said: “We are where we are. We’ve got Bolton. It’s the game of the season for us, the biggest game of the season. I will be absolutely 100 per cent ready for it. I’ve just got to make sure I take a group of people with me that are ready for it also.”

Sunderland fell behind in the 13th minute when Brentford’s Mokotjo drilled low into the bottom corner of Lee Camp’s net from just outside the area. Maupay’s clever flick 15 minutes later made it two and from that point on the visitors never looked like getting back into it.

Coleman’s side had chances but there was no sense of conviction or composure in the way Sunderland played and that depressed the manager having hoped for a positive performance following the dramatic fightback at Bristol City a week earlier.

“The things that bother me is that we’re training well Monday to Friday,” said Coleman. “We train a certain way and play a certain way but then when the bell rings we play a slightly different way so that’s what really bothers me and that’s what I get annoyed with.

“I’ve got to look at us and where we are, the opposition we’re up against and maybe the type of characters we need in the team. We maybe have to change certain things.

“Take away all the emotion of the game and look at the balance of it, there were chances. There was probably not a lot in it because we had chances ourselves but we never looked like we had that belief, and when they got in our last third there was an edginess that they’re going to get a third one. It was there, I can’t deny that.”

It was the ninth defeat of the 16 matches Coleman has taken charge of since replacing Simon Grayson and, despite winning three more than his predecessor’s solitary victory, Sunderland’s perilous position has not improved.

Supporters are angry with how bad things have got on Wearside, although they blame the boardroom rather than the man in charge of team affairs, and Coleman is having to get used to that familiar feeling of disappointment on a Saturday night.

He said: “I should have expected it really, I suppose. More grief, more frustration and more suffering, it’s just a theme really from the last four games. We were nervous, there was panic and a lack of cohesion really.

“We went in at half-time 2-0 down and that’s what we deserved. It’s disappointing, bitterly disappointing. It’s alarming as well because of the situation we’re in that again the opposition didn’t have to work that hard to score the goals. The last four games has been the same thing.

“I was asked last week about formations and I knew I was right. It’s not about formations, it’s about state of mind, mentality. Clearly in the first 45 minutes we gave Brentford three points.”

And he is adamant that the at some point the players are going to have to take responsibility for their performances and show they have the right character to lead a revival before it is too late.

He said: “Whether you’re home or away, whether the fans are booing us because of a misplaced pass or we’ve gone 1-0 down, that’s when you show what you’ve got.

“When was the last time we came back from being 1-0 down? When was the last time we went 1-0 down and showed a bit of mettle and got back into it?

“We should be walking around with two fingers up to everybody saying, ‘Doubt us, go on, and we’ll prove you wrong.’ “There’s an acceptance of negativity and defeat. Here we go again. That’s something I do find tough but I’ll be ready by Tuesday night to give what I’ve got because we don’t have any other options.

“I’ve just got to stick at it and maybe change personnel and change things in training and I’ve got to look at the situation because of where we are and come up with something.  “Maybe it’s too much for one or two, the situation we’re in, especially playing here where we’ve had maybe three seasons of frustration and negativity.  “The fans have suffered a long time through a lack of positivity and they’re certainly not getting enough of that from us for the moment.

“I’ve got a few days until the game of the season for us at Bolton and I have to come up with something so that’s what we’re looking at.”

Coleman hopes that midfielder Ovie Ejaria will be available for the trip to the Macron after being forced to miss out on Saturday because of injury.   He said: “We missed Ovie, someone who would put his foot on the ball and calm things down because we were so erratic in possession, especially in the first 45 minutes.  “From the kick-off we were slashing at it and heading balls we should be taking on our chest and finding a pass. That’s just nerves and panic and you’re not going to progress with that.

“In the second half we started passing it and moving it because we were 2-0 down and we looked better but we were 2-0 down then. That’s been the theme for the last four games.”