Bruce: Sunderland must recover from Notts County against Newcastle

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STEVE Bruce will demand his players put their Notts County nightmare behind them immediately and come out firing on all cylinders in this weekend’s derby.

The Black Cats’ boss was incensed by the poor quality of his side’s performance in their 2-1 FA Cup third round exit on Saturday.

But he knows there can be no hangover with the Wear-Tyne derby up next and he hopes that a full strength Sunderland side on Sunday will be a different prospect to the much-changed team which disappointed at the weekend.

”I made a lot of changes on Saturday because it’s difficult juggling act,” he admitted.

“We are down to the bare bones with all the injuries and I had to look at the risks I was taking with such a massive league game coming up for us in the derby immediately afterwards.

“The cup is important, but the league game has to be my priority because we all know the importance of that particular fixture.”

While Bruce took the opportunity to rest as many players as he could on Saturday, weakening his side in the process, he could have done without a cup defeat to League One opposition dealing a blow to morale ahead of Newcastle’s visit, when Sunderland have the chance to avenge October’s 5-1 St James’s Park drubbing.

“The preparation wasn’t ideal for next week’s game,” he conceded. “But one thing’s for certain – we can’t afford to repeat that sort of performance.

“I’ll analyse myself, too, in the wake of the defeat because I made big, big changes.

“Should I have started with a stronger side? Maybe I should have done.

“If I had done, though, and lost a couple of players for the derby game I would have been in even more serious trouble.

“But even considering what we’ve got coming up and what we’ve got with injuries, I still thought we had enough in the side selected to win that cup game.”

With a £23million strikeforce up front and a string of internationals in the side, Sunderland should have had too much for a Notts County side only recently out of the League One relegation zone – and the manager knew it.

Bruce sighed: “The people I put out are international footballers – players who have played in World Cups. We should still have had enough to beat Notts County. More than enough.

“We simply didn’t apply ourselves.”

The manager, though, will want to draw a line under the Notts County no-show.

“Now we must move on,” he said. “It’s a normal week for us in terms of training.

“We’ve worked hard over Christmas to get players fit and we have eight days between the two games to prepare. That’s what we’ll do and that’s what we’ll focus on, because the one thing I’m absolutely determined about, is that we’ll be ready for this game.”