Martin O'Neill: 'The confidence won't last. Sunderland really need to win a game'

 

Martin O'Neill saw two vastly differing visions of the rest of Sunderland's season as his struggling side lost the game but gained some confidence from their second-half performance at Norwich. The Wearsiders fell two behind before getting into their stride; but after man-of-the-match Craig Gardner reduced their deficit in the last minute of the first half, they battered Norwich for the bulk of the second period and with better composure, and better luck, in front of goal they might have pulled off a morale-boosting victory.

"We conceded two very poor goals and it gave us an uphill task," O'Neill said, "but if we show the same spirit we showed in the second half for the rest of the season we'll be fine. If we show the same tension we did in the first half it will be a tough time.

"We were more than tentative in the first half; we were second to the ball, when we had possession we gave it away too easily; in the second half we were terrific. We were as good in the second half as we were poor in the first – we really applied ourselves, played at a better tempo, created things around the penalty area and had some really good chances."

Unhappily for O'Neill, he had to play that second half without his leading striker Steven Fletcher, scorer of half of Sunderland's goals this season, who went into the game with an ankle injury and did not last the course. Substitute Connor Wickham did well, and earned his manager's praise for "a strong centre-forward's performance", but O'Neill conceded that "it might have been nice to have Fletcher's presence in the box when we were creating those chances".

As for his own future as manager, which has been in question, O'Neill neatly side-stepped the issue, choosing instead to focus on the team's position near the foot of the Premier League table. "It's a battle for us," he said. "Until you've got the requisite points on the board you can never think you're not [in a relegation fight]. We spoke about that at half-time. We contributed to our own failings in the first half – we're not good enough to gift goals to sides then turn it around.

"The confidence was restored in the second half, but it won't last – we really need to win a game. I was going to say we were unlucky, but you have to make your own luck."

The Norwich manager, Chris Hughton, declared himself "mostly satisfied" with a fourth successive home league win, and ninth game unbeaten, adding: "I can't fault my players for their effort", despite Sunderland's dominance of the second period.

"We were excellent in the first half, arguably the best half Norwich have played since I've been here – it's very difficult to sustain that," Hughton said. The result, he said, was "a big one" – adding that "every win in this division is a big win; the next game is always a tough one".

With his first-choice goalkeeper John Ruddy undergoing surgery this week on an injury that is expected to keep him out of action for three months, Hughton was pleased with the performance of his understudy, the former Blackburn Rovers keeper Mark Bunn. "He made a couple of big saves, especially right at the end [from a free-kick by Gardner]."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home