Sunderland 0-0 Wolves: Black Cats booed off as Wolves hover on brink
Published 17:05 14/04/12 By Brian McNally
SUNDERLAND owner Ellis Short’s pre-match boast that Martin O’Neill had brought top six form to the Wearside club sat uneasily with yet another below-par, goalless display.
The Black Cats’ second successive 0-0 home draw brought some booing from home fans at full-time, which was harsh given O’Neill’s impressive salvage operation since last December.
But against a seemingly doomed Wolves side, who had lost their previous seven games, Sunderland fans have come to expect better than a sub-standard display.
Wolves battled hard throughout but, despite caretaker manager Terry Connor’s claims they can still beat the drop, a gap of eight points to safety is surely too much to bridge.
Since their FA Cup quarter final defeat by Everton last month, the mood at Sunderland has been decidedly downbeat.
Short produced a series of statistics in the match programme to support his assertion that the form under O’Neill may see Sunderland challenge for Europe next season.
But afterwards his manager admitted that Sunderland may need to strengthen to trouble the higher echelons of the Premier League.
Before the game Short wrote: “Looking at a league table based on results since Martin took over, we would be in joint-fifth position.
“We have taken 31 points from the 19 league games Martin has overseen. Were that to be repeated over another 19 games, representing a full season, we would have 62 points – which last year was enough to reach fifth place.”
But on the evidence of this miserable 90 minutes, the Texan billionaire will have to put his hand in his pocket this summer.
O’Neill was candid about arguably the poorest home display since he took over from Steve Bruce at a time when Wolves had nosed ahead of the Black Cats.
The Sunderland boss said: “We didn’t do enough to win the game. It was frustrating.
“It was very nice of him [Short] to say that but we just got a reality check. We want the club to progress and we’ll look at what is necessary.
“We will look at the young players and we will look at strengthening.”
A defiant Connor still refuses to concede relegation is inevitable despite the fact his side are running out of games.
Connor said: “We are delighted to take a point and end a losing run as well as keeping a clean sheet.
“Our task is not impossible. We can stay up. We want to keep it going as long as possible.”
Wolves battled manfully throughout and had plenty of decent possession. But they clearly lack a cutting edge.
The visitors’ best chance came on the hour when Steven Fletcher produced a delightful back-heel flick to release Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
His snap drive whistled narrowly wide of Simon Mignolet’s post and that was as close as Wolves came on a day of few chances.
Sunderland were as devoid of ideas as they had been in their previous home outing against Spurs.
Their two best chances both fell to James McClean. The first came early on when Stephane Sessegnon released him with a slide-rule pass, but the Irish youngster’s drive hit the side netting.
The second saw Craig Gardner cross from the right and McClean’s header at the back post was stopped on the line by Wolves goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
Wolves had a great chance to take all three points when Fletcher got on the end of a cross from sub Matt Jarvis, but Mignolet was well placed to push away his header.