MK Dons v Sunderland

Manager delighted with team spirit

by Kate Smith

O’Neill assesses Cup victory.

Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill watched his side seal a place in the fourth round of the Capital One Cup with a solid performance at Stadium: MK.

MK Dons proved a tough test for Sunderland, who were reduced to 10 men early in the game following captain Lee Cattermole’s dismissal.

Two second half goals for Sunderland were enough to see off their League One opposition as Craig Gardner scored with a stunning free kick before James McClean doubled the visitors’ lead late in the game.

Following the tie the manager told “We were comfortable winners in the end but it didn’t feel like that having gone down to 10 men.

“It’s a big pitch and MK Dons keep the ball very well, however [Craig] Gardner’s goal in the second half was the turning point for us.

“It was a great goal from the free kick and we went on to defend stoutly to win the game.”

The Black Cats travelled to Buckinghamshire with a number of players on the injured list, with O’Neill making no less than five changes to the side that drew at West Ham at the weekend.

“We had to make a couple of enforced changes ahead of the game,” O’Neill added.

“I thought [James] McClean was excellent all night. He worked hard for the team, he got back and covered two or three players.

“[Stephane] Sessegnon did the same, dropping back admirably, and he looks like he’s getting somewhere near the form he showed last year.”

Sunderland’s makeshift side consisted of seven midfield players with both Craig Gardner and David Meyler assuming defensive roles.

“The two centre backs were also terrific," O'Neill said. "Matt Kilgallon stepped in and did well and when you take into consideration that David Meyler is a midfield player, he did tremendously and adapted very well." 

The manager concluded: “I’m delighted for the team and especially delighted for the crowd who turned out here tonight.”