O’Neill eyes solution to Sunderland goal drought

Steve Walford and Martin O'Neill
Steve Walford and Martin O'Neill
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MARTIN O’Neill insists a more prolific pre-season would only have masked Sunderland’s problems in the final third.

Sunderland concluded their pre-season campaign with yet another blank on Saturday after succumbing to a 1-0 defeat at O’Neill’s former club, Leicester City.

It meant the Black Cats found the net just four times during their six friendlies, with each of those scoreless displays coinciding with defeat.

But O’Neill has not been too alarmed by Sunderland’s toils in the final third – stressing it was obvious from the tail end of last season that the Wearsiders needed to improve in front of goal and bolster their attacking options before the transfer window shuts.

O’Neill told the Echo: “We haven’t scored too many goals in pre-season, but that problem existed before we started and it’s something we hope to rectify in the next few weeks.

“For me now, watching the DVDs of the games, I’m not too concerned about pre-season.

“I would have liked performances to have been better.

“But if we had won two or three of the games would that have hidden things? I don’t think so.

“You might tell me the lack of goals highlights it, and it may well do. But throughout, we’ve been saying we need to strengthen.

“It would have been nice to have had a full complement of players and everything sorted out so they got to know each other’s play.

“But the strengthening of the side is obvious to everyone.”

O’Neill remains eager to add to his squad before this Saturday’s Premier League opener at Arsenal, but will operate until the transfer deadline at the end of the month if necessary.

Summer-long target Steven Fletcher, who has been suffering from a minor ankle injury, is due to return to training with Wolves today despite submitting a transfer request with the Championship outfit last week.

Wolves remain resolute in their £15million-plus asking price for the former Burnley and Hibs forward, with Sunderland now looking at other forward options, including Spurs striker Jermaine Defoe.

O’Neill is not thought to be restricting his recruitment drive to forwards though, with Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady still on the radar and understood to be keen on a reunion with his former Celtic boss.

“Pre-season is over now,” added O’Neill. “A lot of our guys go away on international duty which is a concern.

“But the other boys that we have at home, we’ll work with them this week and between now and transfer deadline day, we’ll try to improve the quality of the squad.

“Obviously things will develop and happen, but I can’t be sure of the date.”