John O’Shea feels Sunderland have hit the level of “perfection” under Gus Poyet – and should use that to fuel their FA Cup and survival bids.
After Ellis Short put on a small celebration in London to thank them for their efforts during the run, the Black Cats were given Monday off to recover from a sapping weekend which saw them put everything into their Capital One Cup final before coming unstuck to Manchester City.
A defeat that might have broken them should be used to push them on to another level though, O’Shea asserting that Sunderland played Poyet’s plan to “perfection” during a first half that seemed to be everything the Cats boss is looking for.
Of course the Sunderland skipper knows that it came with little in the way of a tangible reward in the end and admits that “crumbs of comfort” are little consolation after losing the chance to pick up a winner’s medal at Wembley. But he hopes that the Cats can go one better in the FA Cup, which restarts with a trip to Hull City on Saturday.
The first lesson, O’Shea says, is that they need to be more clinical in front of goal – with Poyet accepting that by dropping Jozy Altidore and giving Fabio Borini a place through the centre, which he made the most of. The club need to rediscover their form in time for a crucial run-in.
O’Shea said: “We can take pride in the way we played but ultimately we lost.
“It was perfection in the first half really, we shut City out and they ran out of ideas, they couldn’t cope with us on the counter-attack, so the manager’s plans worked to perfection. On another day, another game, we might have been 2-0 up.
“We really knew we were going to be on the backfoot in the second half. They were short of ideas in the first half but you’re fully aware of what quality they possess.
“I thought we controlled it in the first half, our possession was very good and we were able to hit City on the counter-attack but we need to score more goals too, we know that. Whatever limited chances there might be, we have to make sure we’re clinical.”
The response, he asserts, must be swift from the players.
“It’s one of those things where you play great and you lose, you play poorly and you lose, you’ve still lost a final.
“You might try to take crumbs of comfort but you can’t really because you’ve still lost a final. We’ve got to dust ourselves down very quickly, get our families together and go again.”
A brilliant weekend gives the club motivation to reprise the occasion by beating Hull on Sunday at the KC Stadium.
“Without a doubt. The occasion was great,” added O’Shea (below). “The boys who haven’t played in an occasion like this will have learned so much. We could be here again very soon but first and foremost it’s the league and making sure we get back up the table.
“The FA Cup has been good for us this season and we hope it will be again. Hull have been bubbling away nicely and they won quite comfortably against Brighton, I watched that game.
“We came up against them twice this season and if we can keep 11 players on the pitch, we’ll give them a very good game.”