Phil Parkinson insists Sunderland must take their recent setbacks on the chin and stay calm as they chase promotion.
The Black Cats kept five clean sheets and were unbeaten in their first six league games but that run came to an end last weekend with a 3-1 home defeat against promotion rivals Portsmouth.
That was followed by a midweek 2-2 draw at Rochdale, and even though they are just one point behind the two points-per-game average seen as the benchmark for promotion in this division, some fans have begun to question their side's credentials.
But Parkinson, who has twice led sides out of the third tier and into the Championship, knows from experience that promotion-winning sides do not get everything their own way in League One.
"In the last two games, the points return hasn't been good enough," he admitted.
"We've looked as a staff at the reasons why we feel that is the case and we will try and improve that.
"But I was just looking at the last promotion I was involved in from this division, at Bolton in 2016-17, and going through the season we had a fantastic start, then a bit of an indifferent spell but we stayed calm and came through the other side of it, towards the end of the season we thought we had got over the line with a win away from home, then lost a couple and got pegged back, and it went right to the last couple of games.
"We would love to be at the top of the table and for it to be plain sailing every week, but it is a competitive league.
"We just have to keep a clear focus on what we need to achieve in the long-term, over the course of the season, and in the short-term, from game-to-game.
"I'm confident in the squad, I think we're strong, and we have cover in all areas.
"Yeah, we've had a bit of a setback but we have to big enough to take it on the chin and respond to it."
Sunderland's performances have been below-par in the last two games, but Parkinson says they will need to be back at their best when they face a combatitive Gillingham side at the Priestfield Stadium tomorrow.
He said: "We have to accept that teams raise their game when Sunderland come to town, and make sure we are prepared for it.
"It happened at Rochdale on Tuesday night.
"I'd love to be able to say that all we have to do is turn up at Gillingham and everything will take care of itself, but that's not the case.
"We have to be ready to roll our sleeves up again, be prepared to face another team that might raise its game 10 percent, and rise above that and play our game.
"The Portsmouth defeat knocked us, which every defeat does, then we drew at Rochdale when really, on the balance of play, we should have been sat on the coach with three points.
"We have to respond to that, be calm, and go to Gillingham with a clear understanding of what is required."
He added: "Gillingham play a different style to Rochdale.
"They had a good start to the season and then some indifferent results of late, but of course they will try to make it as uncomfortable as they can for us and we have to be ready for that.
"It's a case of striking the right balance between being physically strong enough to deal with the long throws and set-plays and what have you, but also making sure we have the calmness to get the ball down and play."
When Sunderland were keeping clean sheets in the early part of the season they faced criticism for a lack of goals at the other end of the pitch, while in the last two games they have tried to adjust the balance to create more chances but have conceded five goals.
But Parkinson is convinced they are not far away from getting the balance right.
"Prior to the Portsmouth game, I don't think we could complain," he said.
"Defensively we had been very good.
"Our expected goals was 14 and we had scored ten so we were a bit behind that, but it was also an indication that we had been creating clear-cut chances, while there are other teams in the league who have scored more goals than their expected goals.
"The balance between scoring goals and keeping it tight defensively, I don't think was too far away from where it needed to be it was just that we hadn't taken a large enough percentage of the chances we had created."