MARTIN O’Neill promised the Echo ahead of the game that he would be putting out as strong as team as possible against Peterborough yesterday – and he was as good as his word.
The full-back positions – filled by midfielders Craig Gardner and Jack Colback against Wigan last midweek – were returned to more natural custodians Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson.
Gardner himself was deployed in his preferred midfield and the Sunderland manager made only two changes from the side which smashed Wigan 4-1 at the DW Stadium.
“There were a couple of reasons for putting out a strong side,” said O’Neill, explaining his selection.
“Firstly, we’ve eked out a few points in the Premier League, which is obviously important – it has given us a little bit more breathing space.
“Who knows what team I would have put out if we’d been in more difficult circumstances?
“But I hope I would have done the same – which is to give the competition the respect it deserves.
“It’s a fantastic competition.
“Secondly, I also thought about the fact people had paid a lot of money to come and support us.
“We had 2,500 at Wigan and maybe 2,500 at Peterborough and the fans who travel such distances deserve a team as strong as we can put out.
“They wanted us to stay in the competition and I thought, all-round, it was the best way to go because we wanted to do as well as we could, too.”
In the end, a full-strength Sunderland accomplished victory, if not with a canter, then at least with a comfortable margin.
“I think the word ‘efficient’ would probably sums the display up.
“In the first half, we allowed them to play in their own half and then closed them down whenever they crossed the halfway line.
“That approach worked well enough, but we weren’t creating too many chances.
“So, in the second half, we looked to closed them down more in their own half and around their own area and we got our rewards.”
H Sunderland Reserves are at Blackburn tonight (7.0), with Craig Gordon expected to make his second successive start.