MARTIN O’Neill believes the FA Cup third round draw against Bolton helped to build the foundation for his side’s emphatic win over West Ham on Saturday.
Sunderland, who are preparing to face Bolton tomorrow night in the replay at the Stadium of Light, came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against the Trotters, knowing a tie against Everton was at stake.
The Black Cats then took the fighting spirit from the second half at the Reebok Stadium, and used it to brush aside West Ham in their Premier League clash on Wearside last weekend.
The three points helped to ease their relegation fears and O’Neill was quick to laud the spirit shown against Bolton as the catalyst for the much-improved performance.
“The difference between our performance against West Ham and Bolton was obviously day and night,” O’Neill told reporters.
“We started sluggishly against Bolton and I don’t think we can afford to do that.
“But against West Ham we started strongly, and the most pleasing aspect for me was that we kept it going.
“For the most part, we were terrific.
“Our second-half performance against Bolton in the cup helped cement that. It gave us that lift, not only that we were still in the cup, but the players felt that now they could move on.”
Despite now having home advantage for the third round replay, O’Neill is refusing to take Bolton lightly and expects to field a team not too dissimilar from the side who impressed against the Hammers.
“We started brightly against West Ham and played well in that game, but it means absolutely nothing now,” O’Neill said.
“We play Bolton which will be a big test for us, and they will think they have as good a chance as we have of playing Everton in the next round.
“Bolton’s record in the cup has been very good in recent years, and I think they will feel they are capable of winning the game.
“They certainly felt that during the last match. We’ve got home advantage at this moment and the crowd behind us, and we will go into the game with plenty of confidence, but going into the game with confidence is no guarantee of anything.
“It’s not something I would like to be making wholesale changes for because we’re not in a position to be able to do that and we would like to treat the competition with some respect.”