Chris Maguire sends strong message to Sunderland squad after chastening Fleetwood defeat
Sunderland forward Chris Maguire admitted his side must make big improvements if they want to win promotion from League One this season.
The Black Cats will have to come through the play-offs following Tuesday night's 2-1 defeat at Fleetwood - a result which mathematically ended Sunderland's automatic promotion hopes this term.
Maguire came into the side to earn his first start since February, after recovering from a fractured fibula which he suffered against Gillingham earlier in the campaign.
But despite his return to the starting XI, Maguire didn't shy away from another frustrating result - which means the Black Cats have now gone three games without a win.
"It's not good enough, we know that," the forward told SAFC.com. "An opportunity arised to move into third position with Portsmouth dropping points.
"Again it's been the story for the last little while, we can't capitalise and we've only got ourselves to blame.
"We've got to pick ourselves up, we know where we are now, we know where the season is going to go, so it's up to us to try and get there and put it right."
Sunderland had chances to put the game beyond doubt after Lee Cattermole's first-half opener, before a Paddy Madden equaliser and Ashley Eastham's stoppage-time winner.
It means Sunderland have now dropped a total of 21 points from winning positions in League One this season, and Maguire was quick to rue his side's missed chances.
"I thought we started well and to be fair I thought when we got the first there were plenty more opportunities," Maguire added. "I thought we could have got a few and seen the game out comfortably.
"Again we didn't and then pressure comes on and it was sloppy goals again, you can't keep giving goals away like that, especially when you're on the front foot and leading games.
"When you give away goals like that it's always going to be hard to win the game
"We're gutted we're disappointed but we've got to pick ourselves up and make big improvements for the play-offs."
Sunderland must now regroup ahead of Saturday's trip to Southend, which could still impact the play-off fixtures.
The Black Cats could still finish as high as third or as low as fifth, while Maguire is also keen to finish the season on a high.
"Of course we want to finish the season on a high," he added. "We know if we finish the game with a win I think we finish fourth."
"We want to finish as high as we can, it obviously helps us come the play-offs situation.
"We want to win that and give the fans something to cheer about at the end of the season but we know we've got to be better.
"The prize is still there, we know that, the aim is to get promoted, whether that's play-offs, we've got to go down that route now.
"We wanted automatic but we didn't get that so we've got to pick ourselves up."