Nick Barnes and Gary Bennett

Benno: Good start key

by Stuart Vose

Former captain previews home opener.

Gary Bennett has urged Sunderland to build on the momentum generated by a fine opening-day draw at Arsenal.

Martin O’Neill’s side bagged a point and a clean sheet at the Emirates last weekend and return home this weekend to take on newly-promoted Reading.

Fans saw a disciplined defensive display in North London and former Sunderland captain Bennett is hoping O’Neill’s men can turn on the taps up front on Saturday.

“It’s important to build on that momentum and I’m sure Martin O’Neill will be stressing that to the players,” he said.

“It’s the opening game of the season, the atmosphere will be good and after the result last weekend I’m sure the lads will be confident and positive.

“But it won’t be easy.

“Being the home team it will be up to us to take the game to Reading. The onus will be on us to attack.”

He continued: “Last weekend Arsenal had to try and break us down and that will be our job on Saturday.

“At the same time we must make sure we are aware and on our guard.”

Brian McDermott’s side went down 4-2 at Chelsea in midweek having drawn 1-1 with Stoke on the opening day.

The Royals led 2-1 at Stamford Bridge before falling victim to a Chelsea comeback but gave the Champions League holders a real scare.

And Bennett says Reading will take heart from the performances of last season’s promoted teams, all of whom line up again in the top flight this term.

“Reading are full of energy and have some very good players in the team,” he explained.

“They’ll be confident in the way they set the team up and will be coming to the Stadium of Light with no fear.

“If you look at the promoted teams last year, they all survived and Norwich and Swansea did particularly well.

“Last weekend Southampton were just edged by Man City, West Ham won their first game and Reading have started well.

"It will be a tough season but the bar has been set high."

Bennett kicked off his tenth season commentating on Sunderland for BBC Newcastle when he joined Nick Barnes at the Emirates last week.

The pair are pictured at a special event at the Stadium of Light to mark a decade on the air.