Martin O’Neill gets a kick out of Sunderland progress

Martin O'Neill.

Martin O'Neill.

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MARTIN O’Neill’s first challenge to his players on taking over at Sunderland was to lift the club to a position where they had as many points as games played.

“The bare minimum,” he called it.

Last night, they achieved it with victory over Queens Park Rangers in his third game in charge – though they left it heart-stoppingly late to do so.

For the new Sunderland boss, it was a satisfactory moment.

“We’ve won two out of the three games now and that’s encouraging,” he reflected in a brief Press conference after last night’s win.

“I think the players are still getting to know me, but I think that in the three games we’ve had so far, I can have no complaints about the spirit and attitude the players have shown.”

Among the players showing a good attitude was Nicklas Bendtner, who not only hit the woodwork early on before grabbing an early goal but was also sprinting into the penalty area in the 93rd minute to support a Stephane Sessegnon run.

“Nicklas is a fine player in the making,” said O’Neill (pictured right). “I accept that you could probably still talk about him having potential – he’s still only 23.

“But there’s a cause at Sunderland and we’re asking him to commit himself to that cause.

“And I thought he was excellent on the night.

“He looked a player.”

O’Neill was asked whether he’d enjoyed the game and he pointed out that he’d enjoyed the result rather than the see-saw fortunes of the match itself.

“It had crossed my mind we’d thrown it away at 2-2,” he confessed. “It was back on a knife edge.

“But scoring the third goal made the night delightful for us because the points are of paramount importance.

“The performance was great for the most part, but we lost concentration midway through the second half before we regained it.

“We had chances to win at 2-2, but the QPR keeper made two great saves and the possibility was there that we might not have got it.

“But we were very positive in trying to get the winning goal and the two forwards were great.

“Sessegnon, in particular, was outstanding and it was great that both of them got goals.”