THE derby dismissals of Stephane Sessegnon and Lee Cattermole have given Sunderland immediate problems.
Both will miss this Saturday’s home game against Liverpool and the FA Cup quarter-final at Everton the following weekend.
Boss Martin O’Neill knows that, without his most skilful attacking player and his hugely influential skipper, Sunderland will have much more of a mountain to climb in two tough clashes.
“I’m disappointed that Lee and Stephane are out of the games coming up, but that’s a challenge we’ll have to rise to,” said the Irishman.
“With Lee, there was always a possibility anyway that he might get booked in the game and, let’s face it, it didn’t take long (he was cautioned inside the first minute).
“But that was his disappointment – I think there were three challenges in the next seven minutes of the game that were of a similar stature to the one for which he was booked but those weren’t punished.
“And I think if you start off like that as referee in the opening minute, then you should continue in that way.”
O’Neill, though, had no complaints about either of the two red cards Sunderland picked up in the game – not Sessegnon’s dismissal just before the hour nor Cattermole’s red at the end of the game when he ripped into referee Mike Dean for his officiating.
He revealed: “The referee said Catts had been sent off for foul and abusive language and we accept that.
“You can’t be giving out foul and abusive language to the officials as a player – you should leave that to me!
“But I can understand Lee’s frustration – he would feel that there were a lot of challenges in the second half from Newcastle that went unpunished – Cheik Tiote is a very good player but he was lucky to stay on the pitch.
“As for Sess, it’s a sending-off offence – he raised his hands.
“Stephane was stupid and I couldn’t be more disappointed.
“But I’ve got no arguments with the referee’s decision itself whatsoever.”