STEPHANE Sessegnon believes a first goal in red and white will kick-start Adam Johnson’s Sunderland career – even if it didn’t prove to be a match-winner.
Johnson produced by far his most impressive display since his £10m summer switch from Manchester City in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Everton, and capped it by becoming the first Sunderland player after Steven Fletcher to find the net in the Premier League this season.
But the 25-year-old, snubbed by England boss Roy Hodgson for Wednesday’s friendly in Sweden, missed out on becoming the first Sunderland player to secure a Goodison Park victory in 16 years after Everton notched two goals in two second-half minutes to inflict a third successive defeat on the Black Cats.
Sessegnon, who himself was much-improved on Merseyside, is confident that Johnson’s strike will give him a major confidence boost though, after struggling to make an impression since his August arrival at the Stadium of Light.
Sessegnon told the Gazette: “It will be good for him to get that goal.
“We all know the quality of Johnno, but at the same time, we know it’s been difficult for him at the start of the season.
“But that’s not unusual. It’s often difficult for players when they’re moving to a new club.
“Hopefully, that will be the goal which gives him some more confidence, and probably for the team as well.
“He’s got so much ability, and now he can play with some more freedom.
“It’s just unfortunate that his goal didn’t prove to be the winner.
“But I’m happy for him because he can be a really important player for us, and one that can win us games.”
Johnson’s stoppage time strike was the fourth clear-cut chance Sunderland mustered in the first half, but ultimately the failure of Sessegnon, Steven Fletcher and Jack Colback to add to the advantage was to prove costly.
Although Sunderland looked comfortable defensively as Everton monopolised possession in the second half, quick-fire strikes from Marouane Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic meant a far more heartening display from Martin O’Neill’s side still culminated in defeat.
“I think, attacking-wise, it was our best match of the season so far, and there were lots of positives to take,” said Sessegnon.
“We were dangerous on the counter-attack, and in the end it was hard luck, because I think if we had got a second goal, it would have been enough to win.
“We had four occasions to score in the first half, and if we had taken more than one, we’d have won.
“But we knew Everton had got the quality to come back at us in the second half.
“We were excellent defensively, and the Fellaini goal was really the first time they’d had a good chance.
“But one goal shouldn’t have meant that we lost the game.
“They didn’t have many chances in front of goal, which makes it even more disappointing because we ended up falling behind so quickly.”