MARTIN O’NEILL was quietly thrilled with the way Sunderland played in disposing of Morecambe last night, writes Graeme Anderson.
It may have only been 2-0 in terms of the final scoreline and it may only have been League Two opposition, but there was a swagger, confidence and skill level about Sunderland that has not been seen for a long time.
New signing Adam Johnson’s creative input offered a fresh dimension to Sunderland’s attack.
And the manager knows his side will take some containing now they have strengthened significantly going forward.
“I was very pleased,” he accepted after Sunderland’s Capital One Cup progress.
“I thought Morecambe played very well indeed. They played competitively; they played like they wanted to play.
“I’ve watched them this season and I thought their performance against us was the best I’ve seen them play – so we did well to win in the way we did.
“I thought Adam Johnson had an outstanding game. He’s an excellent player and I wish him all the best. He was terrific.
“We played on both sides with width and composure.
“We looked a threat.
“Yes, there were moments in the game where I thought we were getting a bit sloppy, particularly in the second half, but overall we were very good.”
Apart from Johnson, the Sunderland manager noted the contributions of two players who had very different games – Steven Fletcher, who got an hour’s work under his belt, and Lee Cattermole, who shone in a defensive midfield role.
He said: “I was pleased with Steven Fletcher, who has played less than 45 minutes competitive football in pre-season – the game will have done him good.
“But I was also pleased with Lee Cattermole, who can make a great contribution if he stays fit.
“Generally, I was really excited by us and the way we played.
“It doesn’t matter about the calibre of the opposition if you can stretch teams and you have players capable of twisting and turning and getting the crowd excited.”
Sunderland went out of the competition at this stage last season – Steve Bruce’s men losing out to Gus Poyet’s Brighton.
But the Wearsiders’ comprehensive victory over Morecambe bodes well for their prospects in a competition Sunderland are determined to do well in this season.