Royle defiant

DEFIANT Joe Royle has played down the importance of this week's game at Wigan and warned his players they must not start hiding now the pressure is on.

DEFIANT Joe Royle has played down the importance of this week's game at Wigan and warned his players they must not start hiding now the pressure is on.

Sunderland could go top of the Championship at Burnley on Friday, leaving the Blues and the Latics looking to catch up the following day.

Royle is looking for his side to get over their black week after defeats by Watford and QPR but doesn't see the trip to the JJB Stadium as the be-all-and-end-all.

He said: "If losing two home games represents a famine then we will have to make up for it at Wigan.

"All the games now are crucial. If we win at Wigan it doesn't mean we will go up, if we lose then we are three points behind the leaders.

"It is a big game but they are all big games. As it stands we are level top, third on goal difference, so it is not so bad."

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Not one for throwing tea cups or big lectures after a game, Royle did keep his players in the dressing room for a longer-than-usual lecture.

He urged them to be brave even in the face of the Portman Road crowd venting their frustration.

Royle said: "It was as much as you will get a lock-in, all of about four minutes. We had a chat and we have said it is about players holding their nerves, being strong and being together.

"It was a bit disappointing that people did not want the ball.

"That comes with the crowd having a moan. That is the crowd's wont and their will but it happens everywhere.

"We have been out-shouted by a few hundred away fans but that happens when we are away.

"Our away supporters are fantastic and they regularly do that away.

"You can't blame the fans as the players have got to want to take the ball even when the fans are having a groan because they may be tackled when the ball arrives."

Although QPR were gifted an early goal which helped, Royle wasn't happy with the way his team responded to Rangers' tactics.

He said: "Our forwards, collectively, are not having the best of times at the moment, but we keep giving sides a goal start which makes it hard.

"When a side comes here not to be beaten the first goal is important but we didn't have the guile or the power to break them down."

Nor was he convinced that Town deserved to lose. He added: "I don't think it was a fair result. Our goalkeeper has held his hands up for both goals, but other than that he has been largely redundant.

"It was a hard game, they set their stall out as everyone does here and challenged us to break them down and we couldn't."

Royle defended his keeper with a reminder of just how big a part he had played in getting them to the top in the first place.

He said: "I rate Kelvin (Davis) as the best keeper in this division and that is the first time he has cost us a goal with his kicking in two years here. He has been terrific for us through this season and there will be no recriminations towards him.

"He is big enough and brave enough to hold his hands up and he will be there in the next game for us."

Royle believes a change of fortune is due for Town and backs his strikers to come through their quiet patch.

He said: "We haven't had a break in the last two games and that is not a manager seeing it through rose-tinted glasses.

"Around the goal we didn't threaten enough. At least against Watford we looked as if we had a goal in us but against QPR we looked a little shot-shy.

"We have got to find goals again and have the forwards to do it. We have been free scoring for the last two years."

Although Fabian Wilnis passed a late fitness test in time to play on Saturday, while Kevin Horlock, Darren Bent and Ian Westlake came through knocks, Royle will be forced to make changes on Saturday with Jason De Vos and James Scowcroft now both suspended.

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