O'Neill's praise for sapped Sunderland
MARTIN O’Neill reckons Wanderers’ extra freshness nearly cost his Sunderland side their place in the FA Cup.
The Irishman had voiced concern over his small squad in the build-up to Saturday’s game – and with Dougie Freedman making six changes to give a chance to the likes of Marvin Sordell, Martin Petrov and Joe Riley the difference was clear to see early on.
O’Neill was unhappy with the sloppy defending from Carlos Cuellar that gifted Chung-Yong Lee the opening goal but cheered up when Connor Wickham’s entrance as a substitute got the Black Cats back into it.
“Bolton made a few changes with players who were a bit more fresh than us,” he said.
“But, having said that, we have given away the goal. It took ages for us to properly recover from that and what you don’t want to do is go out of the competition meekly.
“But when Connor came on his contribution was great. The goal will have given him a big lift but I had thought of starting with him.”
Sunderland brought with them 5,000 fans out of a crowd of just over 12,000 and O’Neill was happy to send them home happy in the end with a 2-2 draw.
“We owed them something today,” he said. “They came down in their droves and have supported the club through thick and thin.
“We brought over 2,000 to Southampton just before Christmas then 40,000 at home and a contingent travelling to Liverpool.
“So we owed them something and not that kind of performance in the first half.”