Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill denied his side are lacking in confidence after they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by local rivals Middlesbrough at the Stadium of Light.
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Scott McDonald's first-half strike earned Boro a quarter-final place in a hard-fought Wear-Tees derby as Sunderland again drew a blank up front in the 1-0 defeat.
McDonald, who was handed a start after he scored both of the goals in last weekend's 2-1 npower Championship win over Bolton from the bench, scrambled the ball home from six yards at the near post in the 39th minute.
It was enough for Middlesbrough to progress as Sunderland lacked the cutting edge that has seen them draw six of their eight Barclays Premier League games and only score six league goals so far this season.
"It was an opportunity for us to try and get into the quarter finals of the competition and we didn't play well enough and we didn't deserve to go through," O'Neill told reporters.
"It was really disappointing. We started off brightly in the game but Middlesbrough forced their way into the game and in truth we didn't create enough.
"Eventually we didn't have enough confidence but not at the start of the game and not on the back of a strong draw on Saturday (against Stoke).
"I thought it was quite the opposite but if you're not playing well enough that can drain you and you can start playing the wrong options. Collectively we were not good enough to go through and that's very disappointing indeed."
Sunderland's lack of form in front of goal is arguably O'Neill's biggest worry at the moment. Summer signing Steven Fletcher has scored five of Sunderland's six goals, with the other being a Demba Ba own goal in the game against Newcastle.
The Black Cats wasted several good chances in tonight's game, leaving Boro to exact revenge for last season's FA Cup fourth-round replay last season when Stephane Sessegnon's extra-time goal saw Sunderland progress at their expense.
"We have to do more to get goals and we have to look dangerous," O'Neill said.
"Eventually when we get the ball in or around the penalty area we can't pass it or lose it in dangerous positions.
"Tonight there must have been six occasions I can recall where we've had really good position in the penalty area and we've either overrun it or misjudged the next ball through and the move evaporates. That's disheartening.
"I think that is unusual. Usually the teams I have managed have been able to score goals and naturally I'm disappointed but that's my responsibility.
"We've disappointed in the past, even in my time here, and I've deservedly been booed because of it in quite a number of games last season towards the end. You've got to be able to take the criticism and that's something we have to face up to."
Boro boss Tony Mowbray believes O'Neill will fix Sunderland's goal scoring problems after watching them draw a blank against his side on their home turf.
"I have total respect for Martin and his team," Mowbray said. "I'm sure he's scratching his head as to why they've not scored as many goals as he'd want.
"They've got a lot of attacking prowess and a lot of players who can score goals. I'm sure Martin will find the answer to the conundrum he's got at the moment and find more goals."
Following tonight's result and the strong run of form which means Boro are currently third in the npower Championship, Mowbray is feeling confident whoever his side draws in the last eight.
"That's our fourth Capital One Cup game away from home so whoever we get and when the night comes we'll apply ourselves as we did tonight," the Boro boss said.
"I am delighted for the team and the supporters. It was a decent performance.
"Cup competition is about getting through to the next round and we managed to do that. I think there will be a lot of happy people on Teeside."