ERIC Black refused to look for excuses after losing his only match in charge of Sunderland.
Steve Bruce’s former assistant manager was in caretaker control as the Black Cats were beaten 2-1 at Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday.
Martin O’Neill takes over today, and with erstwhile coaches Steve Walford and Seamus McDonagh alongside him in the Molineux director’s box, Scotsman Black is likely to be dispensed with.
When Kieran Richardson gave the visitors a 52nd-minute lead, it seemed as though Black might sign off with a win.
But they collapsed after Sebastian Larsson missed a dubious penalty.
Steven Fletcher equalised in less than a minute, and volleyed an 82nd-minute winner with the help of a touch from the arm of Jamie O’Hara.
“It was a disappointing afternoon,” Black admitted. “If the penalty had gone in, you’d like to think we’d have gone on and won the game.
“I thought that was the pivotal moment in the whole of the game.
“I don’t want to blame the person who took it because Seb Larsson has been outstanding this season, but the confidence and energy drained a little bit when it didn’t go in.
“They scored 25 seconds later and that didn’t even give us a chance to galvanise ourselves. I wouldn’t use what has been happening this week as a excuse. The players are all exceptionally good people and they’ve handled things really well.
“The players were quiet for a day or so but as the game got closer they were totally focused and I couldn’t have asked for anything more them in terms of their preparation.
“I felt there was a decent presence about them on the morning of the game and their display showed there’s a good type of person in that dressing room with a good work ethic.
“If we had gone 2-0 up, we would have been in control. Everybody would have wanted the ball and we would probably have had a bit more energy.
“But 25 seconds later it as 1-1 and the place was lifted for the first time.
“It wasn’t as though we had been under enormous pressure from the spectators, I thought we had kept them reasonably quiet until then.”
Sunderland were very fortunate to be awarded the penalty as Jody Craddock’s tackle on Larsson came outside the area, and may not have even made contact.
“I thought it was a stonewall penalty,” Wolves boss Mick McCarthy admitted afterwards, “but Jody says he didn’t touch him.
“If he (Larsson) did dive they got what they deserved.” Despite Sunderland’s perilous position, Black believes O’Neill will have seen cause for optimism.
“Martin will have seen the strengths we have,” he commented.
“I think he knows there are some good things to take forward, but he’ll also know there are some problems.
“I’m sure he’ll start on Tuesday trying to rectify those problems, and I’m sure he’ll be able to start turning things around.
“I’m confident there’s enough quality in that dressing room to turn things around.
“The players here are all of good quality, but the obvious issue is we could do with someone to score a goal. Unfortunately, those type of players are quite elusive but I’m sure Martin will be doing everything he can to try to find one.”
Although O’Neill starts work today, his new players have been given the day off.
Before the game O’Neill declared himself ready for the challenge facing him having been out of work since the eve of the 2010-11 season.
“I think I have always had a great enthusiasm for the game,” he said.
“I suppose time will tell, but I think I am ready and I want to do it.”
:: SUNDERLAND have been drawn away to Peterborough United in the third round of the FA Cup.