JOHN O’SHEA has backed Sunderland’s remaining frontmen to cope during the absence of pivotal forward Stephane Sessegnon.
The Benin international’s three-game ban for his derby dimissal was confirmed by the Football Association yesterday.
And skipper Lee Cattermole earned a four-match suspension – two for collecting his 10th yellow card of the season and two for seeing red after the final whistle at the Sports Direct Arena.
Top scorer Sessegnon has been ever-present for Sunderland this season, but will now miss the Premier League encounters with Liverpool and Blackburn, plus, more importantly, the FA Cup quarter final at Everton.
But centre-half O’Shea believes strike duo Nicklas Bendtner and Fraizer Campbell, expected to be paired together for Saturday’s visit of Liverpool, can provide Sunderland with sufficient firepower, while Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won will offer back-up from the bench.
O’Shea told the Echo: “It’s a blow to lose Sessegnon, but that’s where Fraizer and Nick come in.
“Big Nick did excellently against Newcastle, scoring the penalty for us, while Fraizer has been great since he’s come back.
“A couple of the younger lads have to step up to the mark too.
“Ji and Connor haven’t been on the bench for the last few games, but they’re going to have to play their part now.
“They’ve been doing fantastically in training and they’ll have to do their stuff.
“Suspensions are one of those things that happen and you just have to cope with it. The other strikers that we’ve got can provide different things.”
O’Shea, superb at the back alongside Michael Turner, sampled his first taste of a Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday after missing August’s reverse fixture with a hamstring strain.
Although Shola Ameobi’s last-gasp leveller denied Sunderland a first win on Tyneside since November 2000, the 30-year-old was content with a point after the Black Cats bounced back from the 4-0 rout at West Brom eight days earlier.
O’Shea added: “It was fantastic. It was everything I expected and more really.
“We knew we’d be under the cosh after Sessy was sent off and when they got the penalty, we’d have definitely taken a point then.
“The lads in front of us were protecting us as much as possible, but we all had to do our part – Simon (Mignolet) especially in saving the penalty.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on for those last few minutes.
“But we have to take the positives out of it, especially bouncing back after the West Brom game.
“We showed a lot more character and showed what we’re all about.”