MARTIN O’Neill has backed Simon Mignolet to come through his first test of the season after absolving him from any blame for the weekend defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
The Sunderland goalkeeper made an uncharacteristic error in the 4-2 reverse on Saturday and was candid in his admission afterwards he should have done more to prevent Albion’s second goal.
However, O’Neill is confident Mignolet “will come through it”, raising the possibility the Belgian’s battle to be fit for the Fulham game was taking its toll on the young shotstopper.
Mignolet injured a muscle during the Everton game and was in agony in the hours running up to the match at Fulham.
However, he insisted on playing at Craven Cottage, which had a knock-on effect on his preparation for Saturday’s game.
O’Neill said: “He was very down after the game – amazingly so.
“It is not surprising from Simon, he’s so, so keen. He’s one of the best trainers I’ve ever known.
“He had a problem last week, he hurt himself the day before we played Fulham.
“He was very uncomfortable during the course of the game but played the match.
“He said he would play when, on the Saturday night he was not in good shape.
“We gave him a few days’ rest during the course of the week, but I thought he was brilliant against Fulham – making two great saves.
“He felt maybe not doing the training left him a little short of work.
“That can happen and he made a mistake for the goal but I expect him to come through because he’s been fantastic for us this season.”
Mignolet has been a consistent and competent performer this campaign, and his form has been good enough to relegate Ireland’s first choice goalkeeper Kieren Westwood to the role of deputy.
Despite Saturday’s error, he will continue as O’Neill’s number one for the foreseeable future.
The manager added: “He’ll come through it because he’s very young and he’s had a great season.”