Sunderland welcomed back Phil Bardsley in another one-off defensive formation in the following line-up: Mignolet, Gardner, O'Shea, Kilgallon, Bardsley, Larsson, Richardson, Cattermole, Vaughan, McClean, Sessègnon. Subs: Westwood, Turner, Wickham, Ji, Meyler, Elmohamady, Noble. Great to see Turner back on the bench, but clearly Bendtner was being “rested” for this key away fixture, with Connor Wickham being on hand for an appearance should his muscle be required upfront..
The Peterborough line up was: Lewis, Alcock, Bennett, Zakuani, Rowe, Tunnicliffe, Wootton, Tomlin, Boyd, Sinclair, Taylor. Subs: Jones, Little, Newell, Thompson, Kearns, Gordon-Hutton, Lawler.
The Black Cats controlled the first half when Peterborough were clearly tense starting against top level opposition and the visitors seemed content to keep them at bay, without really breaking sweat. Matt Kilgallon put in another useful display, being brought back in from the cold after being frozen out by Steve Bruce. The former Leeds defender was obviously not in the previous manager’s plans, but one wonders what he did wrong – all players need to be believed in to bring out the best in them, and clearly O’Neill believes in Kilgallon, who seems happy to sweat blood for the former Villa manager.
Taylor raced forward 30 yards before flashing a 25-yard drive just past Simon Mignolet's goal for the hosts' best opportunity of the half. The other player who has really prospered under O’Neill is the Irish youngster James McClean, and he cut in from the flank after picking up Bardsley's cross and blasted a fierce drive that rattled Lewis' bar late on, sounding a warning to the home side.
The visitors made their intent clear as they soon took the lead after the break through Sebastian Larsson's free-kick which broke the deadlock. Seb Larsson struck the dead ball right-footed from the corner of the box, it may have brushed Gardner on the way through, but Larsson claimed the goal along with the man of the match award after the game. The quality of his deliveries has been terrific this season, and ITV pundit Gordon Strachan said that this was a Beckhamesque ball into the box. If Larsson has an influence on the team even somewhere near that of Beckham, we will be a top outfit for years to come.
The Swede also contributed hugely to the second goal, taking a beautiful corner from the left which was curling in perfectly to be met by a firm header by…you guessed it, MacLean. 2 goals in 2 games for him now, and his strong impact continues.
Overall, Peterborough were a bit flat on Sunday, a young side giving an impression of being overawed against a Premiership team, but neither did they disgrace themselves in this tie. This was a coolly efficient display from the Lads, their third win in a row, and they looked comfortable at 2-0 in the end, with the home team lacking the invention and penetration to make a scoring impact.
Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill on the FA Cup fourth-round draw which pitted his team against neighbours Middlesbrough: "It's a tough one but we're at home. I wonder what Lee Cattermole [who started his career at Middlesbrough] thinks." On this 2-0 success at Peterborough, he added: "In the first half we allowed Peterborough to play in their own half and when they ventured into our half we closed them down. Second-half we got closer to their goal and took control. Eventually we won well."
©Lars J.S. Knutsen