John O'Shea expects few favours as Sunderland seek a way out of the mire
Published 14/02/2016 | 13:06
Skipper John O'Shea has warned Sunderland not to expect any favours from their Barclays Premier League relegation rivals as they pursue another great escape.
The Black Cats eased themselves to within a single point of safety on Saturday with a deserved 2-1 victory over Manchester United, their first over United in the league at the Stadium of Light in 14 attempts dating back to March 1997.
However, O'Shea, a veteran of the club's last three unlikely escapes, knows there is still a long way to go.
The 34-year-old Republic of Ireland defender said: "The games keep ticking away. If we hadn't won (against United), there still would have been games to rectify it, but it's a big three points. We are still in the relegation zone, but we are a lot closer now.
"Look, ultimately it's down to ourselves. The boys are saying, 'You get a win today and you put more pressure on the teams', but if they get wins...
"Ultimately, it is down to us. It's great when results go for you, but ultimately it's down to yourselves and the team, and that's what we have shown in the last few years."
Results elsewhere did go for Sunderland on Saturday as Norwich squandered a 2-0 lead to draw with West Ham and hapless Newcastle were trounced 5-1 at Chelsea.
However, it was the manner of their own performance which gave such cause for hope as they built upon recent improved displays to secure a thoroughly deserved win.
They got off to the best possible start when January signing Wahbi Khazri's third-minute free-kick eluded keeper David De Gea, and although Anthony Martial levelled six minutes before the break, the home side refused to crumble and eventually got their reward.
There were eight minutes remaining when fellow new boy Lamine Kone met Khazri's corner with a powerful downward header which squirmed past De Gea to snatch three priceless points.
O'Shea said: "Look, it's just a big three points whoever we were playing. Performance-wise, we have reproduced that Manchester City performance, but with the quality finishing - and we could have been a bit more comfortable too.
"But we took the desire and spirit from the last 10 minutes at Anfield as well. We took that and we brought it all together and it was a very good performance from the team."
Sam Allardyce and his players will spend the next few days at a warm weather training camp in Dubai preparing for a final push which will determine their fate this season, and that will give the new arrivals a chance to take stock after a whirlwind start to their careers in England.
Khazri and Kone in particular have made instant impacts and have given Allardyce fresh options from set-pieces, the source of both goals against United.
O'Shea said: "With Wahbi Khazri's delivery as well on top of the threat of Lamine Kone coming in and attacking the ball, it's going to be a massive asset to us.
"The two goals we scored were because of the two boys, and not only them - Dame N'Doye, I thought, was really a handful for the United back four and he was unlucky not to get himself on the scoresheet too."