MARTIN O’Neill hopes Stephane Sessegnon suffers no after-effects of his match-winning display on Teesside, writes CHRIS YOUNG.
Sessegnon limped out of the Riverside last night after being substituted following his extra-time goal which settled the Tees-Wear derby and sent Sunderland through to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
The player himself barely seemed concerned by his aches and pains, while Black Cats boss O’Neill believes the Benin international was simply suffering from cramp.
But O’Neill realises the importance of having Sessegnon available for Saturday’s visit of Arsenal, with the 27-year-old ever-present for Sunderland this season.
O’Neill said: “He is an outstanding player and I’m really glad we have got him.
“I don’t think he’s missed a game for us this season, which is brilliant.
“I hope this is just cramp and he doesn’t miss out at the weekend.”
Extra time was the last thing Sunderland wanted as they prepare for their fifth game in 13 days at the Stadium of Light this weekend.
While Sunderland have a week’s rest before they face the Gunners in the cup, O’Neill has a more pressing demand of ensuring his team are fully fit to maintain their league momentum.
O’Neill is not blessed with options to introduce fresh legs, though.
The ex-Celtic manager made just one change to the side last night, with Fraizer Campbell replacing David Meyler, while none of Sunderland’s injured players are expected to be in contention for the weekend.
Lee Cattermole and Nicklas Bendtner are both at least a week away from returning to full fitness, while David Vaughan, Wes Brown, Titus Bramble and Matt Kilgallon all face several more weeks on the treatment table.
“Arsenal will be pretty pleased that we went into extra time, but we have to get ourselves ready for that game now,” added O’Neill. “The cup game the week after will then take care of itself.
“We don’t have any senior players like Lee or Nicklas to come back.
“David Vaughan is making progress, but he is still struggling.
“We had two young lads on the bench last night, in fact we had to get a shirt and a number made up for Adam Reed.”
Read Chris Young’s full match report, plus more reaction to Sunderland’s FA Cup win, in today’s Echo.