Football: Sunderland will carry on battling for success

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The Independent Online
Kevin Ball insists Sunderland are not worried about their disciplinary difficulties with Premiership referees despite an early-season rash of red cards.

Richard Ord became Sunderland's fourth sending-off of the season when he stamped on the England striker Nick Barmby during last night's 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough at Roker Park.

Ord, who was also dismissed at Derby last month, is in trouble with the Football Association and his manager, Peter Reid, with a three-match ban for violent conduct and a hefty club fine the likely outcome.

Two other Sunderland players have also been sent off so far this season, but Ball makes no apology for the fierce commitment which he believes is Sunderland's greatest strength.

"This side's got a tremendous will to win and we're going to go out and battle away in every game," Ball said. "And if that means you're walking a bit of a tightrope with certain referees, so be it.

"Last year we were a committed side. That's what won us the championship. We went out in every game and we went out with the will to win. In this league you've got to combine that commitment with ability and I think we do that."

Ord's dismissal was Sunderland's third in two games with Martin Scott and Paul Stewart shown the red card during the 2-0 defeat at Arsenal, although Stewart's dismissal for handball has since been overturned, with the referee Paul Danson admitting he was mistaken.

Reid has hinted that he will come down heavily on Ord, who had to sit out the match at Highbury because he was serving a suspension from his sending-off at Derby, and now has another ban looming.

The final Wear-Tees derby at Roker Park ahead of Sunderland's move to a new stadium at Wearmouth provided an entertaining match for the Sky TV cameras and an answer to the critics who had accused Reid's goal-shy team of being negative.

But a defiant Ball insists that the "spoilers" tag has not bothered the players, who are fully focused on Premiership survival.

"We're not too fussed about whether people think we're entertaining or not," he said. "Our aim is to go out and win games and get points, and if people don't think we're entertaining that's up to them.

"We're not really bothered about the doubters. We're confident in our ability and we just go about doing our job. People can say and do what they want."