PHIL Bardsley today labelled Sunderland’s FA Cup exit as a “disaster” after being at a loss to explain the Black Cats’ contrasting form.
Sunderland last night crashed out of a cup competition at home to Championship opposition for the second time this season after Marvin Sordell’s second-half double earned Bolton a fourth round tie with Everton.
Martin O’Neill’s men were a shadow of the side who romped to a 3-0 victory over West Ham last weekend despite just three changes to the starting XI.
And after reaching the quarter-finals of last season’s FA Cup, stand-in skipper Bardsley didn’t attempt to disguise the disappointment in the Sunderland camp at the feeble exit from the competition.
Bardsley said: “I don’t know why there was such a difference from Saturday. The performance wasn’t what it should have been.
“It was a great performance on Saturday, and the three points were massive for us.
“To go out of the cup is a real disaster for us in a way.
“It gave us a great buzz last year, but we’ve let ourselves down and paid the price.
“We’re all disappointed in our performance.
“We were comfortable in the first half, and had a couple of chances.
“But in these games, you have to score goals, and we didn’t do that.”
Bardsley refused to blame referee Kevin Friend’s decision to award Bolton a spot-kick for the opening goal, when Jack Colback appeared to have won the ball when he tackled Trotters midfielder Darren Pratley.
“It’s what happens in this day and age,” said the full-back.
“If you go to ground in the box, it makes it easy for the referee to give the decision.
“Jack’s gone to ground, and made his mind up there and then.”
But Bardsley insists Sunderland’s season is not over despite suffering elimination from both cup competitions, and taking a major step to Premier League survival with four wins in seven games.
With just four points separating Sunderland from the top 10, the former Manchester United defender insists the Black Cats must now look to secure the best possible league position – starting with Saturday’s trip to fourth-bottom Wigan.
The 27-year-old added: “The aim for the season now has to be to finish as high up the table as possible.
“It’s a tough league, but I’m sure with the players we’ve got, we’ll go again.
“It will be a tough game on Saturday, Wigan are a decent team.
“But it’s up to us to go to these places and get a result.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves off and get ready for Saturday.”