O'Shea looks for Sunderland consistency

John O'Shea
John O'Shea (right) battles with Shola Ameobi. Photo: PA

John O'Shea is confident a consistent run of games will help Sunderland's flair players rediscover their form and spark a push up the Premier League table.

The Black Cats emerged from Sunday's derby clash with 10-man Newcastle having rescued a point they did not look like claiming until Demba Ba's 85th-minute own goal to spare them further punishment by their arch-rivals.

However, it extended their run to just one win in 15 league games dating back to March, and that will have to improve significantly if they are to fulfil their ambitions for the campaign.

To that end, O'Shea is hoping the end of the lengthy international breaks for this calendar year - there is a single date next month which will see players head off for only three or four days - will allow the likes of Stephane Sessegnon, James McClean and Adam Johnson to work on providing the supply lines to striker Steven Fletcher.

The Republic of Ireland international said: "With most teams if they have signed new players, you want the new players getting a run of games to really be showing what they are capable of.

"Now over the next few weeks, fingers crossed, with a few bodies coming back as well, we will be able to go on a stronger run than we have been doing.

"We have not been losing games - obviously, we lost against [Manchester] City, but we should have more wins on the board than what we have."

Benin international Sessegnon has been a shadow of the player he was last season so far this time around, while McClean has also struggled to make an impact and £10million summer signing Johnson has been hampered by injury and a lack of regular football prior to his arrival from Manchester City.

Manager Martin O'Neill admits sparking the trio into life is one of his main focusses with opposition sides having managed to keep the Black Cats' dangermen quiet in recent weeks to maroon free-scoring Fletcher, still the only Sunderland man to find the back of the net in a league game.

The Ulsterman said: "There's definitely an element of that, but you should expect that, you should expect the opposition - they are not just going to create a path for you just to go and do what you want.

"We have to try to find some other ways either of getting them into the game a little bit more. That's very obvious, what we have to try to do.

"When you are a confidence player and you are trying a few things and they don't come off for you, it takes a really strong character to go and try to do that again the next time around.

"But I have got confidence in the players and I feel we are capable of doing that."

That they did not manage to do that yesterday, and against a side which had to play for 65 minutes with only 10 men after Cheick Tiote's dismissal, will be a concern for O'Neill.

Sunderland fell behind with less than three minutes gone when Yohan Cabaye rifled home from the edge of the box after keeper Simon Mignolet could only block Ba's shot from a tight angle, and Newcastle were relatively comfortable as they attempted to add to their lead.

Indeed, they were only slightly less troubled in the immediate aftermath of Tiote's departure for a careless, rather than malicious, 25th-minute challenge on Fletcher, and with striker Shola Ameobi having been sacrificed to allow James Perch to shore up the midfield, it proved a frustrating afternoon for the Wearsiders.

To their credit, they toiled tirelessly, although without great quality, until they finally made the breakthrough five minutes from time.

O'Shea, captaining the side in the absence of the suspended Lee Cattermole, met Sebastian Larsson's free-kick with a glancing header which hit Ba and flew past keeper Tim Krul to spark a collective sigh of relief among the red and white ranks.

The former Manchester United man, who has now not lost against the Magpies in 13 attempts, said: "Newcastle started very well, they got an early goal and the sending-off is a big turning point for us, and we were able to take advantage of it, thankfully, in the end."