O’Neill sacked by Black Cats

In Ligue 1 struggling Troyes held St Etienne to a 2-2 draw on
Saturday while Nancy beat Rennes 2-0.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Brandao twice put visiting St
Etienne in front, but they were pegged back by strikes from Julien
Faussurier and Benjamin Nivet.

Despite the nature of the draw, a point does little to improve
Troyes’ hopes of survival, as they are four points off
fourth-bottom Brest, who take on Lille tomorrow.

Clarck N’Sikulu grabbed a last-gasp leveller for Evian as they
also drew 2-2 against relegation rivals Reims.

The attacker scored in the 93rd minute for the home side as they
recovered from two goals down at the Parc des Sports.

Floyd Ayite put the visitors ahead after 12 minutes before he
saw red three minutes later for a dangerous tackle.

Despite that setback the 10 men of Reims still managed to double
their lead in the 67th minute through Gaetan Courtet.

They could not hold on though as Yannick Sagbo pulled a goal
back for the home side a minute later before N’Sikulu struck deep
into stoppage time.

Bastia twice came from behind to complete a 4-3 win at
Valenciennes that boosts the Corsicans’ chances of staying in Ligue
1.

Remi Gomis briefly set Valenciennes on their way towards a first
win in six outings but Toifilou Maoulida soon scored his first goal
of a brace to level the tie.

A Gael Danic penalty sent VA into half-time with a 2-1 lead but
Bastia came roaring back after the break, with Maoulida equalising
before substitute Florian Thauvin settled the match with a double
inside the last six minutes – his first goal coming from the
spot.

Gregory Pujol squeezed in a third for the hosts in stoppage time
but it was too little, too late for Daniel Sanchez’s men, who
remain in 12th place while both sides are eight points clear of the
drop zone.

Improving Nancy claimed their second win in a week as a 2-0
victory over Rennes saw them move off the foot of Ligue 1.

Thomas Ayasse put them ahead 12 minutes from time with a
stunning volley before Djamel Bakar secured all three points with a
minute remaining.

Etienne Capoue scored twice to earn mid-table Toulouse a narrow
3-2 victory at Ajaccio.

The hosts led through Jonathan Zebina’s own goal but Capoue
levelled and Franck Tabanou put Toulouse ahead.

Adrian Mutu then made it 2-2 before the break, but Capoue
grabbed the winner from the penalty spot 11 minutes from time.

Ludovic Obraniak’s late strike rescued a 1-1 draw for Bordeaux
after Jeremie Aliadiere had put Lorient ahead.

The 1-0 loss in Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off left the
struggling Black Cats without a win in eight games.

It was a result that also left them perilously close to the drop
zone with seven games remaining in the top tier.

A statement on the Sunderland club website read: “The club would
like to place on record its thanks to Martin and wishes him well
for the future.”

A run of eight league games without a win which has yielded only
three points ultimately cost O’Neill his job after a little more
than 15 months at the helm.

The Black Cats’ last victory came at Wigan on January 19, and
with trips to European champions Chelsea and rivals Newcastle to
come ahead of bogey team Everton’s visit to the Stadium of Light on
April 20, things could get worse before they get better.

O’Neill, of course, was the man whose appointment Sunderland
fans had craved for years, and his arrival at the Stadium of Light
in December 2011 was greeted with delight.

The Northern Irishman had never made any secret of his boyhood
affection for the club and the chance to manage them fulfilled a
long-held dream.

His start was just what owner and chairman Ellis Short was
looking for as a run of seven victories in his first 10 league
games eased the club out of relegation trouble and sent spirits
soaring.

The Black Cats ran out of steam towards the end of the campaign,
but with their top-flight status secured and the promise of a
summer rebuilding programme, attention turned to the new campaign
with genuine optimism.

That only increased when Short provided O’Neill with a total of
?22million with which to buy Scotland international striker Steven
Fletcher and England winger Adam Johnson, and the American put his
hand in his pocket once again in January to add Danny Graham and
Alfred N’Diaye to the squad.

However, only Fletcher, who was this week ruled out for the
remainder of the season with ankle ligament damage, has hit the
ground running with his 11 goals a major contribution to the 31
points they have claimed to date.

Johnson in particular has failed to recreate the form he showed
in his early days at Middlesbrough and then in spells after his
move to Manchester City, while Graham is yet to find the back of
the net in seven appearances.

Short has been unhappy with results for several weeks, but
writing in his programme notes today, he called for a united
front.

He said: “Of course, there is nobody that is happy with our
current position and the way our season is going. The reality is
that we have a fight on our hands with eight games remaining.

“We know that we are capable of playing better than we have been
doing and we know that we need to begin doing so now.

“I can assure you that every person at the club is doing
everything they can to ensure that the season ends on a positive
note and when the season is over, we can take stock of what
happened.

“Right now, however, there is only one thing that every one of
us should be focused on, and that is doing our part whatever that
is in helping this team to get the points we need.

“I’m very aware that our supporters, who have backed us week in,
week out in such huge numbers, aren’t happy and fully understand
why.

“But right now, it is important for us all to be on the same
side and get behind the team. Not being together will not help us
to get results, so let’s stand shoulder to shoulder and give the
team our full support.”

That stock-taking exercise was dramatically brought forward this
evening.

O’Neill was seemingly not expecting the development as he
conducted his post-match press conference.

He said: “I am as buoyant now as – I was nearly going to say as
I have always been.

“What is it – the half-full or the half-empty glass? I’m even
going to the three-quarters full. There’s a real determination in
the dressing room. The players are obviously disappointed, but they
can take a lot from the second half.

“Yes, there is a determination about the players in there that
we can do it.”

It is understood the search for a successor is already under way
and that the club hope to make a swift appointment.

However, whoever gets the job faces the task of galvanising a
squad for an intensely uncomfortable run-in with the stakes higher
than ever as a result of the cash implications of the new
broadcasting deal.