Lee Johnson has this verdict as 'really good squad win' moves Sunderland within one game of Wembley
Lee Johnson hailed 'a really good squad win' after Sunderland booked their place in the semi-final of the Papa John's Trophy.
The Black Cats had to battle through long periods of MK Dons pressure to secure a 3-0 win on Tuesday night, with late strikes from Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke following Dean Lewington's early goal.
Johnson conceded his side had not been at their fluent best at times but said it underlined the depth he now had in his squad.
“I thought it was a really good squad win," Johnson said.
"It proves the boys are fit and proves we have a depth and can make changes. It shows we have young players coming through who can compete and push the first-team players. If there’s any attitude slips, then no problem, bang they’re in.
"I thought it was a difficult game. They move the ball frequently, and the concentration element is really important when you’re playing MK Dons.
"Therefore, there’s a physical fitness, but also a mental fitness that comes with that. That was the bit I was pleased with.
"Remi has made a fantastic save at 1-0 and that was really important, but apart from that we weren’t really troubled in terms of shots on goal and I thought we had a lot of counters," he added.
"There were a lot of counter-attacks where we didn’t quite get the final ball or get our eyes up the pitch quick enough to get forward.
"What I would say is that the lads are putting it in, that’s for sure.
"I think it’s really important we got into the semi-final, however which way."
A quadruple substitution on the hour mark proved key, with Johnson switching to a back three shortly before substitute McGeady's goal.
“It’s my job to find solutions to problems," Johnson said.
"Sometimes, good sides like MK Dons can pose you a problem, and I thought we did look a bit leggy in a little spell. I made an important decision to bring four players on, but they were four players with a mix of experience, youth and legs.
"It made the balance quite nice. We were quite slick on the counter and could have had more, but at the same time were aware they’re a good side and could cut you open with three or four slick passes."
The win leaves Sunderland just one win from a Wembley final.
“That’s what we’re aiming for," he said.
"We want to surprise and delight. We’ve got a job to do in the next round, that’s for sure, and we’ve got a job to do in the league. Our priority is just winning. Winning breeds fantastic habits.
"There’s a lot of protocol that we’re working on, and the lads have been great. We haven’t always had the best results, but over the period of time, we’ve scored more than we’ve conceded.
"There’s a consistency to our performances and we managed to get good minutes into the likes of Jones, who I thought looked bright, and Dan Neil, who I thought was excellent.
"Ollie Younger, Jack Diamond – these are young players and these are our future so we need to make sure we find them the minutes where possible and use the strength in depth to compete on all fronts."