Mike Dodds issues honest verdict on Sunderland's major ongoing issue but has strong play-off message

Sunderland boss Mike Dodds insists his players are still in the race for the top six
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Mike Dodds admitted that Sunderland's attacking shortcomings were again their undoing at Norwich City but insisted that his players are not yet out of the play-off race.

The Black Cats now sit nine points off the top six after Josh Sargent's late winner on Saturday afternoon, making it four defeats in a row. Dodds said that he was pleased with his team's performance up until the final third but said they were too 'erratic' thereafter.

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"I thought we got into the final third really well and I thought the players executed what we asked of them really well, but we've got better quality in the final third than what we showed today," Dodds said.

"I'm not going to sit here and spin positives because we've lost the game and that's the most important bit, but the pleasing bit for me was that we got into the right areas.

"The next stage of that is putting the ball in the back of the net, and that hasn't been easy for us all season if we're completely honest. I think today, you've got give Norwich credit because they defended their box well but at the moment I think we're just a bit erratic, a little bit tense maybe in those areas. But I've got full faith in the players and the way they work, their desire to improve gives me a lot of faith that we're close to turning a corner."

Luis Hemir was handed a recall to the starting XI and despite some good moments it was another game in which the strikers struggled to threaten the goal. Dodds said that was on everyone to improve and praised Hemir for a 'selfless' performance.

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"I think it's a bit of both, we've got to be better with the ball whether it be in the final third or in deeper areas of the pitch," he said.

"We've also got to ask more of our players in the front half of the pitch when we build - so it's a little bit of both. I liked a lot of Hemir's performance, his physical attributes have improved and that's why he is playing more, but we've still got a lot of work to do in that area and that's why we made the change when we did. He's fully aware he's got improvements to do on that front, but I thought it was a really selfless performance."

Dodds insisted the race for the top six was not over despite Sunderland's form and upcoming fixture list.

"Definitely [we can impact the race]," he said.

"I can't remember exactly where we were this time last year but I can't imagine it's a million miles apart. What we did last year was go on an unbelievable run to take it to the last game. The mindset of the players is that they want to win every single game and it has to be that way at a club of this size. The play-offs are still very much in my mind, I appreciate at the moment we're in a bit of a spot - I can't shy away from that and I know we've got two difficult games coming up, but I take a lot of faith from watching the players work. I don't see a group that has given up on that."

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