SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill was happy to admit that Jordi Gomez’s sending-off was the catalyst for his side’s 1-0 win over Wigan at the weekend.
Roberto Martinez’s team were arguably the better side with 11 men – and still dangerous with only 10 for the last 40 minutes after Gomez’s red card for a crude tackle on Danny Rose.
But the Black Cats took all three points thanks to a poacher’s goal from in-form Steven Fletcher.
“It was tight,” O’Neill said. “Wigan came and played their part, and we have to thank Simon Mignolet for making two very good saves for us in the first half before Fletcher came up with the goods again in the second.
“I’m happy to admit that the sending off of their player definitely helped us, but it didn’t become easy for us.
“It was edgy towards the end, especially when it became scrappier in the last 20 minutes, but the win was vital for us and it keeps us going.
“We could easily have scored more straight after taking the lead, but when we didn’t it began to get more edgy towards the end.”
At the final whistle, however, O’Neill could reflect on a job well done, on Fletcher’s continuing rich vein of form, and on England winger Adam Johnson’s return.
“The over-riding thing for me is that I’m pleased we have won the game,” he added.
“Fletcher did very well with the goal, and I thought he was brilliant on the day.
“There were plenty of times he was isolated, but he was able to bring the ball down well and bring others into the game
“It was good to have Johnson back too.
“He had a fitness test on the morning of the game, and felt decent enough to start the game and we thought he would enthuse the crowd.
“He did well to get 70 minutes under his belt, and hopefully that will stand him in good stead.”