Martin O'Neill says strikers must deliver for Sunderland


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The Independent Football

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has urged his marksmen to take on the responsibility of firing the club out of trouble.

The Black Cats head for QPR tomorrow night having won only three of their 16 Barclays Premier League games to date and scored just 18 goals in the process.

The fact that they have conceded only 19 and have the best goal difference of the bottom nine clubs in the table is a consolation, but O'Neill admits the lack of firepower is piling the pressure on his defenders, with loan signing Nicklas Bendtner having not found the net in six games.

O'Neill said: "It would be fantastic if we possessed somebody who could score 20 goals a season, that would be terrific.

"If it doesn't happen, then you have really got to share them around, and you have got to get players into the penalty area to score, generally speaking.

"Of course, we have one or two players who can score goals from outside the box, but eventually when the ball goes in, you have to have people in, and that's what we will be trying to encourage, players getting into the penalty area to try to score.

"In the penalty area, you have got to be a bit selfish if there's a shot on. Don't try something ridiculous, just throwing a leg at it or something like that, but you have got to take a bit of responsibility."

Sunderland's last victory, a 2-1 home success over Blackburn in O'Neill's first game as manager, came courtesy of stunning long-range strikes from David Vaughan and Sebastian Larsson.

However, that was one of only five occasions this season on which they have scored more than once in a game.

And O'Neill knows that must improve if Sunderland are to drag themselves away from the 16th position they currently occupy, just a point clear of the drop zone.

He said: "Anyone can see we have had a problem scoring goals. We have had a problem in actually getting in front in matches and actually winning games, that's it.

"You can't keep relying on us keeping teams out, because whoever you are playing there will be chances at one end of the field.

"At this minute, our goal difference, considering the position in which we find ourselves in the league, is actually remarkably good, but it might suggest there is a lot of pressure on us to hold out in games.

"We just need to score a few more goals, that is pretty plain. If we can get a couple of goals, of course, it alleviates problems further back.

"We are where we are in the league and you would say we don't score enough goals, that's pretty plain."

QPR are in a similar run of form having won just one of the seven league games they have played since their shock 1-0 victory over Chelsea on October 23.

They are one place and two points better off than tomorrow night's visitors, but have scored only six goals at Loftus Road all season.

However, having seen their most recent game, a 2-0 home defeat by Manchester United at the weekend, O'Neill knows his side will be in for a battle.

He said: "You only have to listen to Sir Alex Ferguson speaking after the game against Queens Park Rangers - until they got the second goal, the game was on a knife-edge.

"Even though they might have had a couple of chances themselves, Queens Park Rangers were never out of the game, caused plenty of problems to them and if you are getting the likes of Manchester United having problems caused to them by Queens Park Rangers, then we can expect the same."

Striker Connor Wickham is a doubt with a knee problem, but O'Neill is hopeful that defenders Phil Bardsley and Wes Brown will shake off knocks.