Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has admitted his excitement at the season ahead after handing new boys Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher debuts.
The two men, who completed big-money moves to Wearside on Friday, both started tonight’s 2-0 Capital One Cup second round victory over npower League Two Morecambe.
Former Manchester City winger Johnson played the full 90 minutes and set up both goals for Republic of Ireland international James McClean, while Fletcher, who featured in just a few minutes of Wolves’ pre-season campaign, managed more than an hour before being replaced by Louis Saha.
Asked if he was excited by what he had seen, O’Neill said: “I am, yes I am, absolutely. That’s the thing that came across tonight, I am.
“I think we looked dangerous. I was pleased with Steven Fletcher – he has played less than a half all pre-season.
“He will get sharper with that, and Louis will add his contribution to us, if they stay fit.
“But I was really excited by us tonight. It doesn’t matter what the calibre of opposition, if you can stretch the teams and you have players who are capable of turning and twisting and going at people, it will give us that excitement which I think the crowd craves.”
Johnson did just that as he showed the red and white faithful what he can do from the off.
McClean was the main beneficiary of the former Manchester City midfielder’s largesse, heading home his 24th-minute corner and then producing a neat 65th-minute finish to make the most of the same man’s cross.
O’Neill said: “Johnson was outstanding for us tonight. He’s an excellent player and I just wish him all the best.
“He had played for England, so I wasn’t overly concerned, but he was terrific tonight. We played on both sides with a bit of width, played with a bit of composure and thought and looked a threat.
“There were other moments in the game, particularly in the second half where we got maybe a bit sloppy, but overall, it was very, very pleasing.”
Morecambe made a game of it and although they rode their luck at times, they were still in it until McClean struck for the second time.
However, manager Jim Bentley was delighted with their application on a night when they tested themselves against Barclays Premier League opposition.
He said: “I was very pleased. We gave a good account of ourselves. Considering the league differences and the quality Sunderland had on show, our lads can be proud of themselves.
“We were disappointed to concede from the set-play, but our lads stuck at it, kept going and had a couple of half-chances ourselves.
“Martin O’Neill was very complimentary at the end about how we played and how we acquitted ourselves. I was very pleased, there were plenty of positives for us.”