New recruits are needed to beat the drop, warns O'Neill
Southampton 0 Sunderland 1
Sunday 23 December 2012
If only Martin O'Neill had the confidence of his striker Steven Fletcher, who believes Saturday's 1-0 win at Southampton will help them through their tough Christmas period.
Fletcher, who scored Sunderland's winner, hopes the result against a struggling side can act as a catalyst for further success this Christmas, with Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool all lying in wait.
"We know we've got a hard Christmas period coming up but we've built a bit of confidence," he said.
"If we keep our heads down and keep working hard, we'll get results like this."
O'Neill, meanwhile, has a far less rosy outlook. He acknowledged they are still in deep trouble, despite posting two wins from their last three games. And he believes a recruitment drive in January is necessary if they are to avoid relegation.
"We've managed two wins in the last three games and both, I think we'd admit, very important matches for us against sides that are around us. But we're not in any position to start boasting about anything – absolutely not. Particularly with the programme ahead of us," O'Neill said.
"Spirit alone is not enough. With the best will in the world we need more ability in the team."
Saturday's match was Southampton's first in two weeks. And Kelvin Davis, the goalkeeper who made his 600th career appearance on Saturday, accepted the lack of match action may have left them rusty.
"Who knows?" Davis said. "We took it as an advantage to get work done on the training ground. We trained very well and got ourselves prepared for a tough game."
Southampton: K DAVIS 6/10, CLYNE 7, FONTE 5, YOSHIDA 6, SHAW 6, PUNCHEON 6, CORK 6, SCHNEIDERLIN 6, RAMIREZ 6, MAYUKA 5, LAMBERT 6
Sunderland: MIGNOLET 7, ROSE 8, CUELLAR 8, O’SHEA 7, GARDNER 6, McCLEAN 6, COLBACK 6, LARSSON 6, JOHNSON 7, FLETCHER 7, SESSEGNON 7
Goal: Sunderland Fletcher 42. Subs: Southampton De Ridder 6 (Mayuka, 55), S Davis 6 (Schneiderlin, 59), Do Prado (Puncheon, 80). Sunderland Bardsley 6 (Larsson, 70), Campbell (Johnson, 74), Vaughan (Sessègnon, 89). Booked: Sunderland Larsson, Johnson, Bardsley. Man of the match Cuellar. Match rating 6/10. Possession: Southampton 48% Sunderland 52%. Attempts on target: Southampton 7 Sunderland 6. Referee H Webb (South Yorkshire). Attendance 31,275.
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