Max Power says Sunderland must use the run-in to rediscover some momentum after seeing their automatic promotion chances effectively ended in the space of a week.
The third-placed Black Cats had their automatic promotion fate in their own hands ten days ago, but successive defeats against Charlton Athletic, Wigan Athletic, and this weekend at Blackpool have ended any realistic hopes of finishing in the top two.
Sunderland’s focus will now shift to securing a play-off spot in the final five games, and to ensuring they go into the play-offs in the best possible form.
And that task will begin tomorrow when Sunderland face leaders Hull City at the KCOM Stadium.
“I think what’s important now is that we need to get a result as quickly as possible, in terms of setting it up for the end of the season,” said Power.
“It doesn’t take a genius to work out now it’s going to be real difficult to get automatic [promotion].
“That’s not me being negative, that’s me being realistic and what’s important now is that we try and get our performances ready to end the season and see what comes.
“We need some momentum to take into the play-offs, and that’s why it’s important that we find that winning formula again.
“We’ve not become a bad side overnight and I think if you look at the three games it’s moments in games.
“A lot will be made of what’s gone on and rightly so.
“There will be anger, there will be a sadness at what might have been, but for me now it’s important that we try and rally the squad.”
Sunderland were unbeaten in 14 games – including 12 in the league – before losing three on the bounce, which is their worst run since they were relegated to the third tier three years ago.
Power added: “It’s not been through a lack of hard work in the last few weeks.
“A lot will be made of what has gone on on terms of reaction from outside and that’s understandable.
“I’m as disappointed as anyone, but it’s a case of now having five games to go – can we go and re-find that formula and that form we had a few weeks ago?
“We were churning out results for fun.
“We’ve not become a bad side overnight, so for us now it’s get home, rest and get ready to go again.”
Sunderland’s game at Blackpool turned in the space of a minute.
Power said: “It was a sickener today because I thought for large periods of that game we controlled it.
“We created a lot of opportunities and the keeper has made a good few saves for them.
“I don’t think Burgey has had much to do all game.
“We hit the post one end, they’ve not been in our half in the second half and we’re controlling the game well, a break away and then a bit of scramble of legs and it’s in the back of our net – without them really having to work hard for the goal.
“Obviously that’s very disappointing.”
Asked how Sunderland address the failings that have crept into their game in recent matches, Power said: “It’s a case of just believing in what you do and not coming away from the things we do well.
“Can we tidy up again and get back to keeping clean sheets?
“I don’t think Saturday was through lack of trying or lack of endeavour, it was just a moment in the game.
“Like I said, I don’t think Burgey had a real save to make all day, maybe a free-kick, but from open play we were pretty secure and controlled the game for large period.
“It’s disappointing but there’s nothing more I can say in terms of we have to now try and turn that frame of mind and get a result on Tuesday at Hull.”
Sunderland face Blackpool again next Tuesday when the Seasiders visit the Stadium of Light, and there is also a chance that the sides could meet in the play-offs.
“They are a young, adventurous side and I thought they were pretty direct today,” Power said of Blackpool.
“There was a lot of sort of unrest within them on the pitch about how we were controlling the game – but ultimately it’s the result that matters.
“We’ve had a look at them on Saturday and we play them again next week so that will be another test where we will want to go and get the three points.”