Monday 11 December 2017

Wickham the catalyst as Sunderland sneak draw

Bolton 2
Sunderland 2

Carl Markham

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill insists naming only six substitutes for their FA Cup third-round draw at Bolton was not meant as a message to owner Ellis Short.

O'Neill, who saw his side recover from 2-0 down against the Championship club to draw 2-2, said the American was aware of the team's plight and wanted to improve the depth of the playing resources.

"It was not a point whatsoever, it is the way things fell," said O'Neill, whose selection problems mounted with the loss of defenders Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar to injury.

"I think I get on reasonably okay with the owner. He is well aware, so I think he wants to do something about it. We had a couple of injuries and illnesses, we don't have the biggest squad and we were really stretched but we've lost a couple more. We are trying to do something about it if we can, we need to."

Having seen Lee Chung-yong capitalise on Cuellar's 11th-minute mistake O'Neill admitted his side were sloppy as Marvin Sordell headed home the second just after half-time. But the introduction of striker Connor Wickham turned the tie the Black Cats' way as within three minutes of coming on the 19-year-old scored his first goal since October 2011.

Craig Gardner's 25-yard piledriver set up a frantic finish with the visitors pushing for the winner.

"I thought it was going to be difficult at the start but we certainly contributed to our potential downfall with the first goal," added O'Neill. "We were very sloppy in the first half but the match finally came to the boil in the last 35 minutes. I thought we did brilliantly to fight back. Connor was great. I think that is the first time he has been on the field with Steven Fletcher and although you can't make every judgment in 35 minutes, it looks like they could play together."

Bolton manager Dougie Freedman had mixed emotions at the final whistle. "From a 2-0 lead I'm disappointed, but overall I'm thrilled with the result because I thought we showed great commitment and desire at the end to defend for our lives," he said.

"For the first 60 minutes I thought we controlled the game and we played a style of football I like to play. It was a great tie to watch and in the end we had to dig in and defend – and that was part of the game."

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