O’Neill takes positives from derby draw

Louis Saha
Louis Saha
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MARTIN O’Neill looked on the bright side of yesterday’s underwhelming derby performance from his side.

Sunderland failed to hurt a Newcastle team reduced to 10 men for more than an hour at the Stadium of Light and, in the end, they had to rely on Demba Ba’s own goal late in the game to spare their blushes.

O’Neill, though, tried to see his glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

“It’s a point gained,” he said. “We haven’t lost the match.

“We went out to win the game, but getting that late equaliser has definitely kept spirits up and maybe, at the end of the season, that will be an important point for us.”

Sunderland’s game-plan went out of the window early on when Yohan Cabaye handed United an early lead after an error by left-back Danny Rose.

But the Black Cats had more than enough time to get back into the game, especially after Cheick Tiote’s dismissal with less than half an hour played.

“We hadn’t banked on the early goal,” sighed O’Neill.

“Newcastle were very strong, played to their strengths and their centre-forwards caused us problems.

“They got the goal and, well, they were strong.

“The sending-off allowed us an opportunity to get more poise into our game and we tried to stretch them out wide.

“But we became anxious and, in the final third, we kept trying to play a ball that might not have existed, rather than taking a little more time, a little more care.

“I don’t mean that we should take ages in our build-up – there’s a difference – I just mean take a bit more care with the ball.

“In the second half, I think sheer pressure alone yielded us an equaliser more than anything else.

“We got the goal and maybe had enough time to go on and win it.

“But, under the circumstances, Newcastle being down to 10 men and having defended so strongly, that would probably have been harsh.”