Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

WE'RE IN THE MIRE; Now Sunderland Face Battle to Stay Up

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

WE'RE IN THE MIRE; Now Sunderland Face Battle to Stay Up

Article excerpt

STRUGGLING Sunderland are one point and one place above the Premier League drop zone after a 2-1 defeat at Norwich and Martin O'Neill admits they are now in a basement battle.

Norwich were 2-0 ahead courtesy of goals from Sebastien Bassong and Anthony Pilkington after bossing the first half before slow starting Sunderland clawed into the game just before the break through Craig Gardner.

They were the better side for the majority of the second half but the damage was done.

They couldn't find a second and Sunderland are now deep in the relegation mire.

Sunderland are on a woeful run of just two wins in 22 in a year under O'Neill - a sorry sequence now worse than the one that saw Steve Bruce axed 12 months ago.

"Our position in the league at the minute, with a couple of teams all tight together, would suggest just that we are in a fight," confessed O'Neill, under mounting pressure.

"It is a battle for us and we have to pull through - it was a battle last year and so from that viewpoint I'm hoping the experience they have got will stand them in good stead this season."

But O'Neill knows that his side cannot keep leaking goals because the stats show they are not good at hitting back. They have not come from behind to win all season.

"We're not good enough to be able to gift goals to teams and be able to turn it around. Top sides can do that but we're certainly not a top side," said O'Neill.

"We need to win a game. We have to win a couple of matches in relatively quick succession.

"We conceded some very, very poor goals. It was an uphill task but from the moment we let in the second goal I thought that we played very strongly," O'Neill said.

"We were really excellent, we created some decent chances and should have scored two or three.

"If we show that second half spirit for the rest of the season we'll be fine and if we show the tension that was in us in the first half then it'll be a tough battle. …

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