Same old story hurts Sunderland boss O’Neill

Sunderland's manager Martin O'Neill.
Sunderland's manager Martin O'Neill.
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SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill left The Hawthorns on Saturday night feeling hard done by – disappointed that decisions didn’t go his side’s way, disappointed that defensive errors proved costly, disappointed that the ball just wouldn’t bounce in favour of his side.

It would have been scant consolation for him to consider that the 2-1 defeat was a massive improvement on the 4-0 hammering suffered in this fixture last season.

On that occasion, 52 weeks ago exactly, his team failed to turn up and suffered the consequences.

At the weekend, they were involved in a game which could easily have gone either way and which they should at least have drawn with the final kick of the game.

The end result, however, was the same in both games: nul points, nothing, nada.

And O’Neill acknowledged: “That’s what’s really frustrating at the moment.

“By Tuesday, the performance will be forgotten about and it will just go down as a result. We need to win some matches and we know that.

“At Reading, we could have won that game before they did in the last few minutes.

“We put unbelievable pressure on Arsenal at the Stadium of Light in the last half-hour of the match and should have got something out of it.

“And against Albion, I don’t care what anybody says, we should have got something out of the game, so it’s particularly galling.”

Things might have been different had referee Roger East given a penalty for a Gareth McAuley handball just 10 minutes after he’d awarded one for the same offence by Craig Gardner.

Understandably, O’Neill was aggrieved.

“We were given directives at the start of the season about what would happen if people put their arms in an unnatural position and it makes contact with the ball,” he said.

“At first, I thought it might have been a bit harsh on Craig Gardner, but I’ve seen it back and it was a definite penalty kick.

“But it was the same for the other boy, too – it was a penalty kick.

“West Brom carved out a few chances, as you would expect when they are at home, but we also made some good chances and we should have got something out of the game.”

The Sunderland manager, though, made no excuse for Titus Bramble’s poor decision-making, which effectively made his side’s job that much more difficult by doubling Albion’s lead.

“He came in and apologised,” O’Neill revealed. The ball should have gone out of play – you don’t play it blindly back, giving the goalkeeper little chance.

“He’s apologised, but it has happened in the game and it has been costly.”