Victorious Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill warns of tough times ahead

Sunderland's James McClean celebrates his goal.

Sunderland's James McClean celebrates his goal.

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MARTIN O’Neill was boosted by last night’s victory over Reading, but was quick to warn a difficult road lies ahead for Sunderland heading into the festive season.

The 3-0 win over the Royals hoisted the Black Cats instantly out of the relegation zone they’d fallen into at the weekend, and up to 15th place in the league.

But with games coming up against Manchester United this weekend and Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool on the horizon they could well find themselves flirting with the bottom three again – in the short term at least.

O’Neill said: “We have a tough time between now and new year, and we just have to see it through if we can.

“We’ve picked up injuries which don’t help – Phil Bardsley has a ligament strain, Adam Johnson has a dead leg, and Danny Rose is struggling from a number of knocks. He did well to play on after the first of them.

“On top of that we’ve got Steven Fletcher, who has been struggling with his ankle, and Lee Cattermole is out for a couple of months, so it won’t be easy.”

The manager says he will rely in the games ahead on what he relied on when he first arrived at the club – team spirit.

But he admits that he is not expecting to replicate the sort of form the team first achieved when arrived and oversaw seven wins in his first 10 games.

“The one thing I clung on to when I came here was that the players were still showing fight.

“That was very important – they were still trying, still believing, still willing.

“I know it looked in retrospect as though we seemed to glide out of trouble, but it wasn’t the case.

“I always had a feeling that this season in particular could be a tough one for us.

“I accept that, and kind of thought it might be this way.

“I didn’t want people to get carried away because we’d signed a couple of players.

“But I believe we are on the right track, and we’ll keep going because I’m determined to build a team here at Sunderland, which can not only compete in the Premier League, but win games regularly too.”