Lee Johnson's message to Sunderland fans over poor run of form ahead of key run of fixtures
Lee Johnson insists his Sunderland side will be ready to turn around their ailing form when they return to competitive action against Ipswich Town next weekend.
The Black Cats drew 1-1 with Bradford City in their final Papa John's Trophy group game on Tuesday night, before suffering a penalty shootout defeat.
Sunderland had already secured top position in the group before the shootout, ensuring that they will be drawn at home for the first knockout round later this month.
They now have just one win from their last six games across all competitions, however, and a strong side struggled again against League Two opposition.
Derek Adams' side took a half-time lead through Theo Robinson's goal before Sunderland improved after the break and equalised through an excellent Nathan Broadhead finish.
Alex Pritchard struck the bar with a free kick late on and substitute Will Harris missed a big chance to score, though the visitors went close themselves through Elliott Watt.
Johnson knows the pressure is rising and a strong end to the month in league fixtures is essential.
He insists that getting players back to full fitness over the next ten days will see a sharp rise in performance levels, and then results.
"We can easily turn it around," Johnson said.
"We've got good players and we fully believe in the process of what we're doing.
"Little things will start to swing [for us], I think. We've got a good period to rest and recuperate.
"We've had a fair few knocks and niggles, people like Aiden who had been playing two or three games on the spin with niggles.
"Ross Stewart is having his shoulder analysed, and we might need an injection on that," he added.
"Players like Embo and Gooch, have been a little bit rusty, Pritchard got another ninety minutes under his belt.
"We should be in a position of strength come a week Saturday.
"I don't look at the reaction because I want to be pure in my decision making as much as possible.
"We need to finetune what we're doing, hone in on certain areas, and get players back to full fitness.
"I think it will improve very, very quickly when we do that."
The Black Cats will be looking to strengthen in the January window but Johnson says it is imperative his full squad is ready to deliver a strong return from the busy schedule before then.
“We’ve obviously got 30 points to play for up until January 2nd, possibly 33 depending on FA Cup scores and potentially a game added in," he said.
“It’s a big six or seven weeks for us. I think this period now is so important. This ten days between now and the Ipswich game is going to be so important. To get that health bar of the squad right back up to where it needs to be and then that gives us the opportunity to rest, rotate and recover as much as possible.
“I always said in this division, the big clubs come through with those types of things because of the depth and the strength of their squad."