Martin O'Neill plays down Sunderland surge

 

Martin O'Neill is refusing to let anyone be carried away by Sunderland's surge into the top half of the Barclays Premier League.

The Black Cats climbed into eighth place with a comprehensive 3-0 home victory over Norwich which extended their run since his arrival to just two defeats in 11 games in all competitions.

However, he was dismissive when asked if they could now start looking upwards rather than over their shoulders.

O'Neill said: "We have got some points on the board, but if we had not got a point tonight... Let's say Norwich go and beat you - it's just my normal defensive mechanism - you play Stoke, a really difficult game, then you have got Arsenal.

"Suddenly you lose a game or two and you don't know where the next point is coming from. I have been there before, so it's really important just to keep the players going."

Sunderland raced into a 2-0 lead within 28 minutes of the kick-off with two stunning goals.

First Fraizer Campbell added to his comeback strike at the weekend with a superb 21st-minute volley, and then he turned provider to set up strike-partner Stephane Sessegnon to head home a second seven minutes later.

The points were secure nine minutes after the break when neither defender Daniel Ayala nor keeper John Ruddy could prevent Phil Bardsley's cross from finding its way into the net despite both getting touches to it.

O'Neill had failed in his attempts to land an experienced striker as the January transfer window drew to a close, but Campbell's stunning return to action tempered his disappointment.

He said: "I thought maybe someone like a Kevin Davies - which didn't go much further - but someone like that, could come in and teach the younger players how to maybe play centre-forward with your back to goal.

"You are also thinking maybe someone like that can come in and help you out.

"But that's my job, to teach them how to play, so perhaps maybe I don't need that help.

"It's great for Fraizer. I am really pleased for him, and the likes of young Ji [Dong-won], they have a contribution to make, and Fraizer has made it in big style."

Asked which of the goals he preferred, O'Neill said: "I liked the first one because it gave us the lead - and I didn't mind the second and third either."

Norwich were far from at their best at the Stadium of Light, but manager Paul Lambert, who played under O'Neill at Celtic, was not too downhearted.

He said: "Listen, you take the disappointment, like anything, and you mull over it for a few days.

"The good thing is Saturday will be on us before we know it, and then we have to go again and try to win that."

PA

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