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Cattermole and Co put on a united front for Sunderland
GAME OVER: Sunderland's Valentin Roberge celebrates scoring the second goal of the night to ensure a 2-0 win over Peterborough
Full-time: Sunderland 2 Peterborough United 0
THERE was a sense of togetherness back at the Stadium of Light tonight (Tuesday), when two of the men at the centre of the dressing room feud with Paolo Di Canio just days earlier combined to get Sunderland back on track.
IN CHARGE: Caretaker boss Kevin Ball
While supporters attempted to galvanise spirits by regularly singing 'don't worry, bout a thing' from Bob Marley's Three Little Birds classic, the rejuvenated Lee Cattermole inspired Sunderland to a much-needed 2-0 victory over Peterborough United.
Cattermole, an outcast under Di Canio until the weekend when he was recalled and then criticised at West Brom, was the driving force from midfield to help the Black Cats secure a fourth-round place in the Capital One Cup.
It was also the tenacious middle-man's brilliant centre – which led to his name being sung by the fans – that created the first-half opener for one Italian still liked on Wearside, Emanuele Giaccherini.
And even though the second goal took its time in arriving, Sunderland's summer signing from Maritimo, Valentin Roberge, made sure of a morale-boosting win with a well-directed header 16 minutes from time.
The talk will continue this week about who Di Canio's replacement will be, but caretaker boss Kevin Ball should be rightly satisfied having steadied the ship for the time being at least with a routine success.
This was a night when everyone had to put on a united front and the players and fans – of which there are still a few who would have liked Di Canio in charge – did just that.
Sources close to the training ground were happy to reveal there was a far more relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for Ball's Monday session in the wake of Di Canio's exit.
There were also smiles and handshakes for club officials as the players walked one-by-one off the team coach before the game, something which had been effectively banned by the volatile ex-boss.
And inside the dressing room there was said to have been a buzz like months ago, but that would have counted for nothing had the result not been delivered on the pitch.
Even if there were no concerns inside the tunnel, there must have been a few doubts among supporters who had turned out in the Wearside fog in the hope of some light relief in times of crisis. There need not have been.
With Cattermole at the hub of everything in the middle for Sunderland, the Premier League side were full of intent to making a winning start.
Even before Giaccherini's opener, Peterborough's net could have bulged a few times. Inside six minutes the first chance arrived, when Jozy Altidore was denied by the foot of goalkeeper Bobby Olejnik after a clever through pass from Giaccherini.
Seb Larsson, slotting in on the left, had also struck a shot narrowly wide as Sunderland's attacking impetus looked as if it would reap first-half rewards. It did.
With the first bellowing of supportive Cattermole chants coming to an end from the South Stand, he turned creator shortly after Giaccherini had turned over a decent ball in from Jack Colback.
This time the Italian did find the net. He made a goalbound charge between his two markers to meet a cleverly timed delivery from outside the box from Cattermole which Peterborough's backline failed to deal with.
Every man in a red and white shirt celebrated together, only goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was missing, choosing instead to punch the air in satisfaction at the opposite end in front of the North Stand.
There were improved performances across the pitch, even if it was against League One opposition. Sterner tests will arrive in the coming ten days, but at least there was a vibrancy about Sunderland's play again.
The disappointment from a Wearside perspective was that the second goal never arrived before half-time. There was still no specific threat posed to Westwood's goal.
Altidore crashed a lovely low drive against the foot of the post following a lovely, free-flowing counter-attack involving Ki Sung-Yueng, Adam Johnson and Larsson on the stroke of half-time.
After another fast-moving break, Johnson was unlucky to see his left-foot curler from the edge of the box fly narrowly wide when the crucial second goal looked on once more.
The longer the game went on without that second for Sunderland, there was an increase in uncertainty both from the fans and the players – particularly after Colback almost turned a cross into his own net.
But Roberge arrived on cue to settle any doubts. When Johnson floated over a teasing centre, the centre-back, who had replaced John O'Shea, headed beyond Olejnik with a precise finish.
After that there was little further threat posed to either goalkeeper. What mattered was the result and the performance.
Under Ball, post Di Canio, Sunderland are up and running, now for Liverpool and Manchester United. But, apparently, 'every little thing's gonna be alright.'
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