Shot-shy Sunderland frustrate manager Martin O'Neill in defeat to Middlesbrough


Martin O'Neill knows a lack of goals are hurting his Sunderland side as they continue their struggle to find form.

The Black Cats have made an indifferent start to the season and were last night unable to add to the meagre six goals they have scored in all competitions as they were dumped out of the Capital One Cup at the fourth-round stage, with Middlesbrough 1-0 winners at the Stadium of Light.

Scott McDonald scored the only goal of the game and, after their latest shot-shy outing, O'Neill conceded work has to be done in the final third if his men are to get going this campaign.

"We have to do more to get goals and we have to look dangerous," he 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."

O'Neill's opposite number, Tony Mowbray, has no such problems.

His side are riding high in the Championship and are now one of three non-Premier League teams left standing in the league cup. A favourable draw against a Leeds or a Bradford would lead them to dream of a semi-final berth.

For now, though, their manager is just happy to be making progress.

"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," Mowbray 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 Teesside."

The Wearside natives were far from happy last night, however, with the reception afforded to Sunderland's players at the end not one of warmth.

"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," O'Neill said.

"You've got to be able to take the criticism and that's something we have to face up to."