Onuoha: Sunderland can cope with striker crisis

Phil Bardsley clashes heads with Nedum Onuoha during the 4-2 victory against Wigan Athletic
Phil Bardsley clashes heads with Nedum Onuoha during the 4-2 victory against Wigan Athletic
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NEDUM Onuoha today shrugged off Sunderland’s striking crisis as they prepare to face Fulham without a recognised frontman.

All three of Sunderland’s hitmen are set to miss Saturday’s visit of the Cottagers after Asamoah Gyan and Danny Welbeck (both hamstring) joined long-term injury victim Fraizer Campbell on the treatment table during last weekend’s win over Wigan.

Gyan and on-loan Manchester United man Welbeck may not feature again this season, leaving 19-year-old Ryan Noble, yet to start a senior game, as the only orthodox striker available to Steve Bruce.

But Onuoha pointed to the impact of attacking midfielders Stephane Sessegnon and Steed Malbranque in the crucial 4-2 victory against Wigan after they were pressed into action as the front two.

On-loan Manchester City defender Onuoha told the Echo: “Being at home on Saturday, the emphasis is on us to win the game, whether we have any of the big name strikers or not.

“It’ll be the time for someone to go and step up because we’ve relied on the strikers too much to score goals this season.

“There was a lot of pressure going into the Wigan game and everyone knew it was a must-win. But we needed to put on a bit of a performance as well and in the second half we did that, having come back from a goal down.

“The second half was a lot of fun to play in and I don’t think we’ve had that in a while with things going against us.

“In the first half, Asamoah and Danny put their two centre-backs on the back foot. Then once Steed and Stephane were in there, they were two completely different players and their defenders struggled to adjust.”

Sunderland doubled their tally from the previous six games with four second half goals against the Latics.

Two of those came from Jordan Henderson with the 20-year-old showing the form which saw him make his England bow last November.

Henderson has come under fire after suffering a slump in form during the second half of the season. But Onuoha believes the midfielder has been a victim rather than the cause of Sunderland’s struggles.

“Jordan played really well on Saturday and got the brace so hopefully it will be the same against Fulham,” added the 24-year-old.

“It’s been difficult for him recently, but it’s the same for everyone in the team. When a side’s not doing well, most players suffer.

“A lot of people forget how young he is, he’s not played that many games so things can affect you. But he’s kept working hard and got his reward.”