JOHN O’Shea believes Sunderland would have taken the derby spoils if they hadn’t been reduced to 10 men through Stephane Sessegnon’s dismissal.
Sessegnon was inconsolable in the away dressing room yesterday after becoming the third Black Cats player to be dismissed in the last three meetings with the Magpies – skipper Lee Cattermole then becoming the fourth when he was shown a red card by referee Mike Dean after the final whistle.
While Sunderland, particularly O’Shea and central defensive partner Michael Turner, defended heroically after Sessegnon’s 57th-minute sending off, they were barely able to trouble Newcastle at the other end in the closing stages.
Despite Simon Mignolet’s penalty save to deny Demba Ba, the pressure from the hosts ultimately paid off when Shola Ameobi grabbed an injury-time equaliser.
O’Shea said: “If we had kept it to 11 men, we’d have definitely won.
“It was a great performance from the lads. We battled right to the end, but unfortunately we just couldn’t hold out for that last couple of minutes.
“Newcastle had us under a lot of pressure, especially when we went down to 10 men. But we responded quite well and we seemed able to cope with it.
“Unfortunately though, when you’re down to 10 men, you can’t really use the counter-attack as well as we had been doing earlier.
“When Simon saved the penalty, you think it’s going to be your day, but credit to Newcastle, they kept putting the ball in the area.”
Sunderland had by far the best of the opening 45 minutes, making all the running going forward until Ba headed against the crossbar on the stroke of half-time.
Despite the Magpies dominating possession after the break, they struggled to get in behind Sunderland, only to level when Yohan Cabaye’s mis-hit cross made its way through to Ameobi via Mike Williamson’s flick-on.
O’Shea added: “They were quite direct early on in the game, and we felt we had them covered. We were attacking quite well on the counter-attack, especially in the first half.
“They weren’t really causing us any problems, and we felt quite comfortable.
“We went a goal up through big Nick (Bendtner), and him and Sessy were causing them problems up the top.
“At the start of the second half, we knew Newcastle would come at us and they did – they had a good five or 10-minute spell when they had us under the cosh.
“But we dealt with it and unfortunately Sessy has got the red card and we were up against it.
“They brought off their new lad who they’ve signed (Papiss Demba Cisse), and you know the local lad will get a big roar and be up for it himself.
“It’s just unfortunate that the lad mis-hit his cross, it dropped short and the lad was able to flick it on.
“They got the benefit of a poor cross, and unfortunately we couldn’t keep it out.”