Martin O’Neill rues Sunderland’s dramatic demise

Marouane Fellaini drives in Everton's vital leveller, despite the close attention of Sunderland defender John O'Shea.
Marouane Fellaini drives in Everton's vital leveller, despite the close attention of Sunderland defender John O'Shea.
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THEATRE impresario Bill Kenwright naturally enjoyed the dramatic nature of Everton’s comeback against Sunderland on Saturday.

But as chairman of the long-suffering blue half of Merseyside he has a natural affinity with the underdog and, post-match at Goodison Park, he could be found offering solace to a dejected Martin O’Neill.

Having waited patiently on the touchline for the Sunderland boss to complete his initial post-match interviews, Kenwright put an arm around O’Neill’s shoulder and walked with him under the dimmed stage lights.

It was a gesture no doubt appreciated by the Black Cats’ manager still coming to terms with the knowledge that his side’s best league performance of the season had ended with their third successive defeat.

Minutes later, O’Neill was facing the written Press, still struggling to swallow the disappointment.

“I think we had a great chance to beat Everton, especially if we had taken one of our early chances,” he said, staring at the carpet, brow furrowed.

“We had four clear-cut opportunities in the opening half and I don’t think Everton could have complained at being three down.

“I thought we were exhilarating in the first half.

“It was a great performance and it was a shame we couldn’t cap it with just one or two more goals.

“Frustration is my over-riding feeling from the game.

“We could have done with scoring a second goal, but even if we didn’t score a second goal we had something to hold on to.

“Unfortunately, we were up against an Everton side who feel they’ve got the bit between the teeth, who feel as though they can get into the Champions League and will just battle on in games hoping to get there.

“We knew we would be under pressure in the second half, but, having said that, we still looked very dangerous on the break.

“And 14 minutes from time we had taken everything they could have thrown at us and still looked confident.

“So it was a bitter blow not to take any points.

“It was a good performance from Adam Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon was outstanding for long periods and I’m just disappointed we didn’t see it through.”

Crestfallen though he was, he knew there were more positives to be taken from this game than the preceding two put together – even though Everton extended their remarkable unbeaten record against Sunderland stretching back more than a decade.

“The players ironically have taken a lot of confidence from this game,” he noted.

“Quite a few players came into good form and feel better for that.

“So we’ve lost a game but we will come back. It’s still early to judge our season.

“After our next game, against Fulham, we’ll have played 11 games – four at home and seven away, so there’s an imbalance there.

“And I think, when things balance out, we’ll turn it around.

“As for the game against Everton?

“I don’t believe in hoodoo clubs, but maybe there’s an element about that after watching this match because I really thought we might win that game.”