O'Neill confident of avoiding another cup hangover

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

MARTIN O'NEILL admits he is still hurting after Tuesday's FA Cup exit, but the Sunderland manager is adamant there won't be a repeat of last season's cup hangover.

The Black Cats must bounce back quickly after their shock defeat at the hands of Championship side Bolton Wanderers midweek and will try to get their season back on track at Wigan today.

Four wins in their last seven league matches has improved Sunderland's position in the table and put a six-point cushion between themselves and the bottom three, but everyone at the club knows that could change very quickly.

After their FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Everton last March, Sunderland went on an abysmal winless run until the end of the season, but O'Neill is confident that won't happen again.

The Black Cats boss, though, admits he has found it difficult to move on from Tuesday night.

"I would like to be able to come in rather like a few other managers and just dismiss it, but that's not the case.

"Moving on just like that has never been in my make-up as a player and I still consider it some days later.

"It is disappointing because we've gone out in the third round, we had fought back in a game which was eventually fruitless at Bolton with a big crowd and at 2-2 twice we nearly won the game - nearly's not good enough.

"There's conflicting reports (about the cup hangover last season). The first match we played after (Everton) was probably the best we played against Manchester City.

"Is it my view that eventually you should just put it down to that one thing? I think that was my point. You can't just put it down to one game.

"We have too many games and still too much at this minute (to play for).

We've got 16 games left, almost half a season still to go, and I think if we're going to feel sorry for ourselves for the next four-and-a-half months we are in serious trouble."

O'Neill was boosted by the return of Lee Cattermole on Tuesday night, but the Black Cats boss revealed yesterday the midfielder had suffered a set-back in training.

Having returned from two months out with a knee injury, O'Neill arranged a friendly game for the midfielder to get his fitness back up to speed, but he is likely to miss today's game after suffering another knock.

"I would not have put him on the bench if I didn't think he could come on and help us in the game. Knowing Lee he would probably have wanted to start the game but he'd only done a couple of days' training.

He said: "When we'd gone 2-0 behind, not that I thought he would rescue the game for us but at least I thought we could give him some game time. That was pretty important.

"We followed it up the next day with a little game of seven-a-side. The game itself was a really good idea and Lee was really enjoying it. It was only in the last stages that the pain came shooting through.

"The medical team are not thinking it is anything like it was before but when you are just coming back from injury you start to think of every negative I suppose.

"But I am hoping it is not too serious and if he declares himself fit he is immediately in contention because he is a player we need at this minute, although we have been without him for some considerable time."

Steven Fletcher should be fit to return after missing the game midweek through illness, while John O'Shea is also in contention for a starting place.

"John was sore again after the (West Ham) game, a different injury to the back. He trained and if John had been properly fit for Tuesday, he would be in contention. He's trained since.

"Steven's feeling much, much better. He did some training on Thursday so we're hoping he will be available."

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