SAFC v Aston Villa

Boss targeting strong finish

by Stuart Vose

O'Neill looking to Fulham game as catalyst.

Martin O’Neill wants to use Saturday's game against Fulham as a springboard for a strong finish to the season.

Sunderland notched a big 3-1 victory at Craven Cottage earlier in the campaign and the Black Cats boss says a league double would provide a big boost ahead of the final 10 games of the campaign.

“The win at Fulham earlier in the season was an important one in the context of things at that particular time,” he explained.

“Now, following the Wigan game we were on a high but had a stodgy game against Swansea at the Stadium of Light followed by three fixtures I feel we should have got something from.

“It’s a big game. There’s a lot of games still to be played, but it’s an important fixture for both teams.”

Fulham sit three points ahead of Sunderland following a 1-0 home win over Stoke City last time out.

O'Neill says Martin Jol's side will head north full of confidence and looking to kick on – a challenge he's also setting his own side.

“Fulham had a great win last weekend and afterwards I heard their manager saying it was an important one as they have been looking over their shoulder,” he said.

“Any side in the bottom half of the table should still be doing that.

“One result can inspire confidence and they will feel they are capable of taking on anyone, but it really is up to us.

“We have the wherewithal and the drive and determination to see this last third of the season through as strongly as possible.

“That necessitates winning some matches.”

Meanwhile O'Neill is looking for a finishing touch this weekend after seeing his side carve out a host of chances during the defeats to Arsenal and West Brom.

“I think you can be genuinely unlucky,” he said.

“If we continue to carve out the chances we have been doing – I know it doesn’t reflect on the scoreboard – then I will be reasonably pleased.

“If we can create the same number of decent chances against Fulham, then we just have to hope that little bit of luck and finesse doesn’t elude us and we can score a few goals.”