Lee Johnson delivers this verdict on Sunderland's superb cup win and 'brilliant' away-end scenes
Lee Johnson spoke of his pride in his Sunderland players as they booked a place in the quarter finals of the Carabao Cup with a penalty shootout win over QPR.
The Black Cats held a strong side to a 0-0 draw over 90 minutes, and though the hosts were adamant they should have had a late winner through a Charlie Austin strike that was ruled out for offside, Johnson's team competed well.
Lee Burge's save from Austin set them on their way in the shootout, and three perfect penalties secured a 3-1 win and a place in the last eight.
Johnson admitted there was a spell late in the first half when he felt his side looked to be lacking some confidence, but he praised their resolve in securing the win.
"There was a spell for probably about 20 minutes in the first half when I thought their press and their frenzy caused a lot of problems," Johnson said.
"My half-time team talk was to show confidence, to show we belong at this level in the long term.
"This is a team who have really had a go this year, with the players they've brought in and the squad depth they have. They've been building steadily.
"Some of our players have a handful of league games to their name, and we had lads coming back from injury.
"I thought we were well worth the draw, and then maybe the win.
"And then on penalties, I always fancy Burgey. We do our research and he's got that presence. And we have good takers as well.
"Burgey is a good goalkeeper and a very good shotstopper
"I've just been told that QPR have scored in every single Championship game this year. To keep a clean sheet is a big thing for us.
"We caused them problems as well. It's a really big learning curve for us."
Johnson celebrated with nearly 3,000 travelling supporters in the closing stages and said it was another night that underlined why he was proud to manage a 'brilliant club'.
He is hoping the efforts will be rewarded with a big draw in the last eight.
"I absolutely love it, it's a brilliant club," Johnson said.
"I don't even mind the bad stuff because it's pure passion. Not moany, just pure passion.
"And the good stuff is absolutely unbelievable.
"I had about 17 Johnson's in that away end and they would have loved that atmosphere.
"We're trying to build a spirit, a belief, and after a loss on Saturday we wanted to really give our travelling fans a treat.
"It's about as good a 0-0 you're going to get, and then you have the penalty drama.
"To get a big draw would be another part of the story for us.
"Dan Neil's a good example, he's about 15 games into his career and he'll have learned so much from tonight. At times he did some great things, at times the pace of the game was a challenge.
"You can only grow by having these experiences.
"When you then compete, you can really grow and your bar just gets higher and higher and higher."