SUNDERLAND manager Martin O'Neill last night admitted he hopes his side's second Premier League victory of the season will restore any lost confidence within his under-pressure squad.
There was more than an element of good fortune about yesterday’s 3-1 win away to in-form Fulham, who played for an hour with ten men and had another off the park with an injury for Sunderland’s second goal.
But O’Neill did not care too much about such matters, as he was only interested in the goals from Steven Fletcher, Carlos Cuellar and Stéphane Sessègnon that he hopes will get the Black Cats’ season started properly after a disappointing start.
O’Neill said: “I’m obviously delighted to have won the game. Confidence is a big thing, and when you see someone like Sessègnon score that type of goal, you hope it helps.
“He’s been searching for that confidence all season, as has the rest of the team.
“There were signs of it coming back last week at Everton. We created three great chances in the first half and should have been able to take more than the one we did.
“It was never going to be enough, but we created chances again today and shared the goals around. Fletcher’s was a very important goal for us, but having said that, after they equalised, so was Cuellar’s.
“We were never quite able to put Fulham away. Simon Mignolet has had to make two unbelievable saves for us to keep them at bay. They were never out of the match, but I was pleased to see us score some goals and pleased to win away from home.
“Our goalkeeper is having a fantastic season, and I thought Fletcher was fantastic for us as well.”
O’Neill paid special tribute to Sessègnon and Adam Johnson, two players who have started to show their best form. The Sunderland manager said: “There were a couple of months last season when Sessègnon was absolutely fantastic for us. He ended up winning the Player of the Year, but he’s been searching for that form.
“I think his family are settling now and that helps. Some of the family were living in Paris, but now he’s got settled and that’s important. That type of goal was pleasing, but he can strike the ball.
“You wouldn’t have said that from the first six or seven games of the season, but in training his ball striking is absolutely excellent. Now, he’s taking that confidence on to the pitch.
“Adam was getting 20 or 25 minutes in matches at Manchester City, and was generally coming on to try to do something or coming on when they were in front.
“They are a terrific side. Here, he’s starting the matches, but with respect to us, we’re not remotely as good as Manchester City so he’s having to strive and do more for us than he would ever have had to have done there. He’s getting there.”