Keane's call to players

ROY Keane has called on his Sunderland players to step up their game from now on, starting with tomorrow's home game against Ipswich Town.The Sunderland manager has his eyes fixed firmly on a promotion charge and says that Sunderland can afford to lose very few more games if they are to push themselves into the promotion frame.

ROY Keane has called on his Sunderland players to step up their game from now on, starting with tomorrow's home game against Ipswich Town.

The Sunderland manager has his eyes fixed firmly on a promotion charge and says that Sunderland can afford to lose very few more games if they are to push themselves into the promotion frame.

He said: “We know Ipswich will be tough and well organised and a difficult team to beat.

“But we have to look beyond that consideration now and go out there thinking about the need to win games.

“We've strengthened the squad in the last few days and we've now got the players available to us which should allow us to go on a good run.

“We've had chances in the past to break into the top six but we haven't taken them.

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“We've lost too many games this season and we're getting to the stage where every single loss from now on will hurt us. Any defeats in the second half of the season are going to be very difficult to make up.

“We had one or two disappointments in the first half of the season and one of them was at Ipswich, when we gave some bad goals away.

“We can't afford any more slip-ups, giving two or three sloppy goals away. If you do that, you're going to get nowhere as a team.

“We need to be winning games and if we're not winning them, at least make sure that we aren't losing them.

“After looking at the Preston game on tape I was, if anything, more disappointed than I had been originally because we allowed them to score what was a pretty sloppy goal from our point of view.

“And that's happened quite a few times this season, that the goals we've conceded have been ones that we could have avoided with a bit more concentration.

“The remainder of the season we've got to be strong defensively, and we've got to make sure we don't concede easy goals or go onto concede two goals in quick succession.”

Sunderland go into the game in tenth place in the Championship - their highest league position of the season - thanks to the 2-0 victory over Leicester on New Year's Day.

And Keane is eager to press on as Sunderland look to avenge his first defeat this weekend - the 3-1 reverse at Portman Road back in September.

He said “We've come a long way in a short time but we've really got to be looking at having a good second half of the season. We have players here who are capable of putting us on a good run and I think the new signings will definitely strengthen us.

“Hopefully we can give the fans something to cheer, starting with the game against Ipswich on Saturday.”

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