Head coach given food for thought at the Stadium of Light...
Neil Redfearn was full of praise for the players who came into the side after ringing the changes for Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Sunderland.
Redfearn handed debuts to summer loan signings Dario Del Fabro and Brian Montenegro, while Charlie Taylor, Gaetano Berardi, Casper Sloth, Luke Murphy and Adryan were also drafted in at the Stadium of Light.
The head coach also decided to rest the likes of Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook in a bid to prevent his younger players suffering from burn out.
Patrick van Aanholt’s 33rd-minute strike ensured it was the Premier League outfit who progressed to the Fourth Round, but Redfearn was encouraged by how his side fared, especially those who have had limited game-time so far this season.
"They have done it the right way around, they’ve come in and played really well," he said.
"It was important on Sunday that we rested the young boys – Byram, Cook and Mowatt – because we’ve got a duty of care to them as well.
"I don’t want to burn them out. We’ve got to look after them. They’re young players and they’ve done brilliant.
"I thought Murphy and Austin ran it in midfield, particularly Austin and I thought Murphy showed a good touch and awareness.
"I thought he really grafted and put a shift in. He’s had it tough but I thought he came in today, he got hold of the ball and he passed it.
"He used his experience and they were the fulcrum of what we did, the two of them in there.
"I thought they got hold of the game, particularly in the second half, and I thought we bossed it from there."
Redfearn also altered how his side set up at the Stadium of Light, opting for a 4-2-3-1 ahead of the regularly-used diamond formation.
"In the Championship, you’ve got to swim in the waters that you’re in," said the head coach.
"I think the diamond has worked to a point but we’ve turned into a bit of a one-trick pony. We’ve got to look at what we’ve got other than that.
"We played will width on Sunday and we played well. I thought Casper Sloth played well, he showed good touches and popped up in little pockets of play.
"Brian Montenegro, too. That was his debut and I thought he was excellent.
"He worked up and down, he gave us something on the left and I think if we’d have had a little bit more poke in the first half, we’d have carried more of a threat.
"But I thought in the second half we bossed and we should have got something out of it."