Martin O’Neill has Sunderland on set-piece alert

Blackburn Rovers' Yakubu scores from a set-piece.
Blackburn Rovers' Yakubu scores from a set-piece.
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MARTIN O’NEILL has focused on ensuring Sunderland are braced for Blackburn’s set-piece assault during his first week at the Academy of Light.

But the new Sunderland boss insists it will be a case of evolution not revolution in re-moulding the Black Cats on the training ground after succeeding the dismissed Steve Bruce.

O’Neill is keen not to overwhelm his players with new ideas by scrapping the systems put in place by Bruce and starting from scratch.

But one thing the ex-Celtic boss believes can be done in the short-term is preparing Sunderland for Blackburn’s set piece threat on Sunday.

Two of the four goals Steve Kean’s men scored in last weekend’s victory over Swansea stemmed from Morten-Gamst Pedersen corners.

And considering Sunderland have conceded seven times already this season from deadball situations, O’Neill has spent his first week making sure the Black Cats are ready for their fellow strugglers.

O’Neill told the Echo: “We all know what sort of pressure can be exerted from Blackburn, particularly from set-pieces.

“We have to try to make sure that part of our game is as strong as it can be.

“But I’m not so sure, even if you wanted to, you would change things overnight. Players take a bit of time.

“I was a player myself and for instructions to get through, even with the best manager we had in Brian Clough, he used to say it would take an awful long time for ideas to get through.

“While we desperately need overnight results, the style of play here might not effectively change for some time.”

O’Neill saw a reflection of Sunderland’s season from the stands at Wolves last weekend after seeing the Black Cats lose 2-1 from a winning position for the second successive game.

With Sunderland lying just a place and a point above third bottom Blackburn, O’Neill knows his new charges need to get some victories under their belts.

“I went to Wolves with a really open mind about it,” said O’Neill.

“It was just interesting to hear Eric (Black, former assistant manager) tell me about it after the game.

“He felt it was a microcosm of the season so far.

“There were really good passages of play when you look as if you’re doing fine, but next thing you can’t get the goal, then you concede and things tumble around you.

“When the confidence is not high, you could see it coming.

“Wigan was a game we should have won and didn’t do and then to throw all the points away against Wolves, even with the penalty decision, you should still not get beaten.

“But it’s happened and it’s something you have to rectify.

“We need points on the board because we’ve got 11 from 14 games and it’s not the best stat.”