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O'Neill: Cats can claw way to win

SUNDERLAND boss Martin O'Neill will send his makeshift side into battle at Wigan tonight buoyed by their New Year's Day heroics.

The Black Cats survived a bout of illness and injuries and a second-half battering by Premier League leaders Manchester City to snatch a famous victory at the death, and O'Neill is hoping that will leave his battle-weary troops with a spring in their step.

He said: "If we had been beaten having put that sort of effort in, then we would have been on a real downer. But we won and I am just delighted with that."

O'Neill, however, knows his players will have to work just as hard at the DW Stadium if they are to have a chance of a similar result.

He was among the crowd at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday as the Latics took the lead and then, having had defender Gary Caldwell dismissed, fought back from 2-1 down to snatch a point.

O'Neill said: "We are all scrapping at the moment and they showed that in abundance against Stoke City."

O'Neill held a roll call in the wake of the City game, with his list of absentees seemingly growing by the day.

Phil Bardsley and Titus Bramble missed out through injury, and were quickly joined by Wes Brown, who limped off with a groin problem just 26 minutes into the match.

Keeper Keiren Westwood and midfielder Kieran Richardson were sidelined by illness, and Sweden international Sebastian Larsson started and finished despite spending Saturday in bed.