Sunderland chief Martin O’Neill insists life will only get tougher after Norwich draw

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill cast a dejected figure after the Black Cats' 1-1 Premier League home

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill cast a dejected figure after the Black Cats' 1-1 Premier League home draw against 10-man Norwich. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill has warned his beleaguered players that it will not get any easier as they attempt to avoid a fight for Barclays Premier League survival.

The Black Cats were only able to take a point from Norwich, who played for more than an hour at the Stadium of Light with only 10 men, as they failed to end their search for first a league victory at the seventh attempt.

O'Neill will now send his international players away to their respective countries keeping his fingers crossed that they return unscathed ahead of a run of games which sees his side face Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Everton.

O'Neill said: 'We had an opportunity there to go and try to get three points. It's difficult – it's been difficult all season for us.

'But we have games still to play, tough matches, every one of them. But the whole league has been tough for us.

'I wouldn't stop at four – they are all difficult games. This is the league. You play everybody twice, this is the run of games. But we had a situation around about Christmas-time when people were showing the fixture list then, and we were able to win back-to-back games against Southampton and Manchester City, so we have to go and do that again.

'My concern, obviously, is the players going away on international duty. I won't see them for some time and I'm hoping they come back in one piece.'

Most Read

O'Neill acknowledged his side might have got the rub of the green with regards to at least one of the second half refereeing decision – when Danny Rose was judged to have handled Russell Martin's cross outside the penalty area, rather than inside, as TV replays showed to be the case.

But he insisted it was about time decisions started going their way.

'Norwich will be disappointed obviously, that might turn the game a bit as it turns out,' he said. 'We can talk about decisions and we might have got a bit of luck, I've not seen it back.

'Not that we deserve much luck today, but I've seen about seven penalty decisions go against us in recent times. That bit of luck we didn't deserve, maybe went in our direction.'

Regarding the other controversial moments, O'Neill said: 'I've not had chance to watch any of the replays back of the penalty and sending-off, but the referee had a job to do and he's made those decisions.'

He added: 'We frustratingly gave the ball away when we were in decent positions – we were left trying to force issues that just didn't exist and suffered the consequences.

'You can find it to be difficult playing against teams with 10 men when they've got something to hold on to, but we should have done better.'