Belfast Telegraph

O'Neill glad to be out of drop scrap

Martin O'Neill is happy to be watching the fight for Barclays Premier League survival from afar as Sunderland's season ends with a whimper.

The Black Cats boss freely admits that he did not expect to be safe in mid-table at this point in the campaign when he took over from Steve Bruce in December.

O'Neill said: "You look at the results today - Wigan have gone and beaten Newcastle United, and teams are fighting for their lives. We could so easily have been in that position ourselves here, and we would have been on tenterhooks, really, at the end of the season. I am delighted we haven't been, but there's lots to ponder, lots to consider."

The point Sunderland took from Saturday's 2-2 home draw with relegation-battling Bolton was enough to mathematically confirm their safety, something which has not really been in doubt since the recovery inspired by the Ulsterman took them on a run of nine wins and two draws in 16 games.

Whatever else will occupy his mind over the next few weeks, O'Neill's main focus will be the composition of his frontline for the new campaign.

Nicklas Bendtner, signed on a season-long loan deal from Arsenal by Bruce as Asamoah Gyan made his shock exit to United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain, scored his eighth goal of the campaign to go into a three-way tie with Stephane Sessegnon and Sebastian Larsson as leading scorers. But the Denmark international is unlikely to be there next season.

Bolton's need is more pressing and the point they claimed in the north-east may yet prove to be hugely significant to their hopes of securing another season of Premier League football.

Kevin Davies volleyed them into the lead after 26 minutes and then rescued a point with a 70th minute header after Bendtner and James McClean had turned the game around.

It took a smart reaction save from keeper Craig Gordon, playing his first game of the season, to deny substitute Ivan Klasnic an 87th-minute winner and it was the visitors who left the pitch the happier, although perhaps feeling they should have been doing so with maximum points.

Black Cats defender Michael Turner said: "We are frustrated. To come from behind and be in the lead - we felt in control and that we could go on and maybe score another goal, so to concede a goal was bitterly disappointing."


From Belfast Telegraph