SUNDERLAND boss Martin O’Neill admitted a huge roar went up when the Black Cats drew the plum derby tie of Middlesbrough after seeing off Peterborough United in a comfortable 2-0 victory at London Road.
The Wearsiders cruised through into the next round to set up the big fourth-round clash against the Teessiders thanks to second-half strikes from Sebastian Larsson and James McClean.
Larsson’s goal came when his vicious inswinging delivery from a free-kick out on the left avoided the crowded six-yard box and flew into the net.
The Swede was also the architect of Sunderland’s second when another superb ball – this time from a corner – found young Ulsterman McClean, who headed past helpless Posh keeper Joe Lewis.
The effort was worth the reward as the Black Cats were afterwards paired with Tony Mowbray’s Boro, O’Neill revealing it was a draw welcomed by his side – especially ex-Boro man Lee Cattermole.
He said: “A big roar went up in the crowd just there.
“I think it was the last few remaining supporters making their way out – or perhaps it was Lee Cattermole.
“That will be one to be looked forward to. It is a great tie for us and indeed both sets of supporters.
“We are at home so I will see if we can make that count.”
O’Neill also kept with the same 4-5-1 formation which worked so well against Wigan last week and gave his reasons as to why he was not tempted to tinker with selection – like some Premier League managers have been known to do in the past – on FA Cup weekends.
He added: “There were two reasons why I kept the same system.
“We had eked out two points in the Premier League, which is important and just gave us a bit more breathing space.
“Who is to say what we would have done had we not taken the points, but I am hoping I would have done the same thing.
“Also, people have paid a lot of money to come down here and support us today.
“We had two and a half thousand at Wigan and those sort of numbers again here today. They wanted to see if we could stay in the competition. All round that was the best thing to do.”
Of the match itself, O’Neill was delighted with the second-half performance which secured victory after urging his men at half-time to press their hosts even further up the pitch.
He continued: “I thought in the first half we allowed Peterborough to have the ball in their own half and we just kind of dropped off a little bit.
“I felt we did that too much and maybe should have pressed them a wee bit more.
“Consequently, when we had it, we did not do fantastically with it – although we still created chances.
“I felt in the second half we should try to press them a bit closer to their own goal.
“And I felt we were much more effective because of it.”