Despite having Cheik Tiote sent off with more than an hour left of the Wear-Tyne derby, the Magpies still looked like holding on to Yohan Cabaye's third minute opener at the Stadium of Light. Despite having direct wingers Adam Johnson and James McClean in their ranks, as well as the roaming Stephane Sessegnon, Sunderland lacked invention and creativity to break in behind the solid Newcastle defence. In the end Sunderland were indebted to a John O'Shea header which deflected off Newcastle striker Demba Ba before hitting Tim Krul's net to secure a point for the Cats. But the Sunderland boss did not attempt to paper over the cracks, suggesting he will be looking to bring the spark back to some of his players after just one win from seven in the league this season.
"You should expect the opposition to stand firm in those situations and that's what Newcastle did." said O'Neill.
"You have to find some other way of getting in to the game, we had to try to do that. I just think that when you are a confidence player, when things don't come off, it takes a really strong character to go and try to do it again. I have confidence in the players and we are capable of doing it."
"Newcastle played to their strengths. They got the goal and they were strong. The sending off allowed us an opportunity to try to get more poison to our game. But we became rather anxious. In the second half the sheer pressure alone yielded the goal rather than anything flamboyantly brilliant. We have got the goal and we maybe had enough time to go on and win it. In the circumstances, with Newcastle down to ten men and defending strongly, that would have been harsh on them."
Both Johnson and Sessegnon were replaced, but it could just as easily have been McClean who made way after a disappointing opening 70 minutes. Sunderland's problems have been around all season, which is highlighted by the fact Steven Fletcher remains the only player to have found the net in the Premier League this season. Even now, with yesterday's goal credited to Ba rather than O'Shea, the same statistic still stands. O'Neill believes the bit of late luck will lead to brighter times in front of goal.
"The noise that greeted the kick-off was awesome, but the noise that greeted the equalising goal was something I will not forget in a hurry. It was something else." said O'Neill.
"It was a tough old game, the players were creative players we had out there and they are finding it tough. We just need them to get back to what they are capable of doing. Eventually, even if it wasn't our plan to get it that way, we got the goal and getting our late equaliser has kept spirits up."
"We would like to have converted one or two of the chances we had but at least we got something."
In the build up to yesterday's derby Newcastle defender Steven Taylor suggested there isn't a Sunderland player who would be in Newcastle's starting line-up. O'Neill was aware of the comments. He said:
"It didn't figure in my teamtalk. Some of the players had passed comment about it. He is entitled to his opinion. I am delighted he made their bench!"
O'Neill also acknowledged the performance of Sunderland full-back Danny Rose. It was the defender's first game since his ordeal in Serbia, where he was subjected to racist taunts on a night to shame football. And the Sunderland manager said:
"Danny was a bit nervous to start with. I don't think he had Serbia in his mind, he wanted to concentrate on his mind. He got caught out for the first goal but his second half display, giving us that width and being prepared to take players on, is what I was pleased with. He took on almost a winger's role."