Following his first defeat as Sunderland manager, Martin O’Neill remarked: “We just need to score a few more goals, that is pretty plain.”
Teenager Connor Wickham, who was signed from Ipswich Town for £8m last summer has started on both occasions so far under O’Neill, having only previously made three starts this season. Due to a knee injury picked up in the third, that was also previously his last before getting re-called to the team by the new manager. But after picking up a knock the unlucky striker had to be replaced at half time in his latest appearance.
The Black Cats’ even goal difference before Sunday’s 1-0 defeat at Spurs, combined with them having fewer points on the board than the number of games they have played “might suggest there is a lot of pressure on us to hold out in games” O’Neill added.
Only the current bottom three have fewer points than the Black Cats at this stage. However, under Bruce, and at White Hart Lane, not one of the eight defeats suffered has been by more than one goal. This season they have been perceived, like Everton have, as teams who have struggled more than had been expected – whilst the teams around them in the table have poor goal differences after 16 matches – these two clubs have evidently kept it consistently tight at the back.
But the thing that has worked against Bruce and also David Moyes, is the desire of football supporters to see their team score goals. And as O’Neill has pointed out this week, a few more goals scored would make a massive difference.