MARTIN O’Neill was left bemoaning the “consistency” of referees after Sunderland dropped back towards trouble.
The Black Cats had a case for a penalty directly after the decision which cost them the lead, Gareth McAuley clearly handling the ball after Adam Johnson’s first-half stoppage-time drive. O’Neill had no complaints about conceding a penalty when Craig Gardner blocked the ball with his hand but he was upset at the way his team had been denied.
He said: “It is particularly galling, with the contentious refereeing decisions. All I am asking for is consistency.
“We were given directives at the start of the season about people putting themselves and their arms in an unnatural position. That might not be the right word I don’t know.
“First of all I thought it might have been harsh against Craig (Gardner), but I have seen it back and it is a penalty kick, but it is the same incident at the other end as well.
“The player has put his arm out, if he holds it down and it hits him it is a definite issue.”
O’Neill admits his team need to channel positive performances into points with the distance between them and the relegation zone shrinking.
The Black Cats played well again in the Black Country but, just as they did against Arsenal and Reading, they ended up pointless.
O’Neill added: “That is really frustrating.
“Eventually by Tuesday the performance will be forgotten about and it is down as a result and we need to win some matches, we know that. In the last three games we have played we have played Reading and we could have won that before they did in the last two minutes.
“Arsenal we put unbelievable pressure on and should have got something out of and here I don’t care what anybody says we should have taken something out of it.”
O’Neill saw potential in the partnership between Steven Fletcher and Danny Graham but admitted to concern at the team’s precarious position. He was casting an envious glance at West Brom, who zoomed past 40 points on Saturday.
He said: “Fletcher hit the post when Danny laid it off to him, so I am hoping in time that will work better.
“Somebody asked me if I am concerned. I am.
“Any side in the bottom half is looking over its shoulders until you get the required number of points.”