Martin O'Neill

O'Neill looks ahead to cup action

by Stuart Vose

Boss ready to face Trotters.

Martin O’Neill says Sunderland start with a clean slate tonight as they prepare to face Bolton with a place in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup with Budweiser at stake.

Sunderland welcome the Trotters to the Stadium of Light this evening following a 2-2 draw at the Reebok Stadium in the Black Cats’ first game of 2012.

O’Neill’s men turned in arguably their best performance of the season against West Ham last weekend, notching a comfortable 3-0 victory.

But the Wearside chief has warned that previous performances will count for little against the Npower Championship club.

“We played exceptionally well from start to finish [against West Ham], and the second-half performance against Bolton in the cup in the previous game had helped to cement that,” O’Neill said.

“The way we played [in the second half at Bolton] gave us a lift and we felt like we could move on.

“We started brightly against West Ham and did very well, but that means nothing now.

“Bolton is a big test for us and they will feel as if they have as good a chance as us of playing Everton in the next round.”

Meanwhile O’Neill is hoping to replicate his side’s good start to the game against the Hammers.

Sunderland tore into the visitors from the off, learning the lessons from a tough first half at Bolton where the Black Cats found themselves 2-0 down before coming back to draw 2-2.

“We started sluggishly in the first tie and we can’t afford to do that again,” O’Neill explained. “We gave them a very easy goal too and that didn’t help matters.

“The most pleasing aspect against West Ham was that we began well and kept that going for prolonged periods.

“I felt West Ham were still in the game at 2-0 and I was pleased to see the third goal go in.

“They gave us some anxious moments towards the end, but for the most part we were terrific.

“There is a big prize for the winners of this game – playing Everton - and we want to be there.”