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A bit of a Posh do is enjoyed by Cats boss.

Byline: JAMES HUNTER

'EFFICIENT and effective.'' That was how Martin O'Neill summed up Sunderland's performance at Peterborough - and it was hard to argue.

The Black Cats did not exactly blow Posh away, but they never looked in any danger of falling victims to a cup upset either.

Or even needing a replay to see off their Championship opponents.

Two second-half set-piece goals - the first a free-kick from Seb Larsson, the second a header from find-of-theseason James McClean from a Larsson corner - were enough to book O'Neill's men a place in the next round and set up a mouthwatering fourth-round tie against neighbours Middlesbrough on Wearside at the end of the month.

Sunderland have not faced their foes from down the A19 since Boro were relegated in 2009 and the atmosphere is bound to be electric at the Stadium of Light.

However, Tony Mowbray's promotion-chasing Boro are bound to put up more of a fight than Posh.

Because the most disappointing aspect of yesterday's tie was Peterborough's no-show.

ITV picked this tie for live coverage because all the ingredients for an upset were there.

A struggling top-flight side (which Sunderland undoubtedly were a month ago when the game was chosen), decent Championship opposition and a claustrophobic, lower-league stadium.

However, Posh, admittedly struggling with a lengthy injury-list, never gave it a go.

They failed to put Sunderland under any sustained pressure or make life uncomfortable for the visitors - or even force Simon Mignolet into a save worthy of the name.

So in the end this was a fairly routine victory for Martin O'Neill's side, cheered on by a magnificent 2,500-strong travelling support.

Wearside is still firmly in the grip of the O'Neill effect, with the new manager having now presided over five wins from seven games in all competitions.

He has breathed new life into Sunderland's stuttering Premier League campaign and the fans hope he has the same kind of impact on the club's fortunes in the FA Cup.

The last decade has been, for the most part, a massive disappointment in this competition.

The Black Cats have only progressed beyond the fourth round twice in the last 10 years - and the last time they did so was 2004 under Mick McCarthy when they reached the semi-finals before losing to Millwall. The intervening years have seen fourth-round exits at Portsmouth, Blackburn, Brentford and Everton, and third-round heartbreak against Notts County, Wigan and Preston.

While these days the vast majority of Premier League clubs have no realistic chance of winning the title, the cup competitions still offer hope of glory for a club such as Sunderland.

At the end of the road to Wembley lies a cup final appearance, the chance to win silverware and even a route into European competition.

Exit the cup competitions early and your season could be over in January, but the longer a cup run can be sustained the longer the dream remains alive.

VERDICT: Bring on the Boro!

SIMON MIGNOLET ......... 6 Barely a shot to save all afternoon.

PHIL BARDSLEY ............ 6 Easy return from injury for the right-back.

JOHN O'Shea................. 7 Never looked troubled.

MATT KILGALLON ......... 7 Solid alongside O'Shea.

KIERAN RICHARDSON 7 Bombed forward down the left. SEB LARSSON ................ 8 A goal and an assist for the setpiece specialist.

LEE CATTERMOLE ......... 8 Ran the midfield.

DAVID VAUGHAN ........... 6 Kept the midfield ticking over. JAMES McCLEAN .......... 7 A fine performance and scored for the second successive game.

CRAIG GARDNER ........... 7 A real handful playing just behind Sessegnon. STEPHANE SESSEGNON..................... 5 Not as effective as the lone out-and-out striker.

Substitutes DAVID MEYLER ..................... 6 For Vaughan, 71. Did OK.

JI DONG-WON For Sessegnon, 78. AHMED ELMOHAMADY For Gardner, 85.

Subs not used: Turner, Wickham, Westwood, R Noble PETERBOROUGH UNITED (4-1-3-2): Lewis 5, Alcock 5, Bennett 5, Zakuani 5, Rowe 5 (Little 63, 6), Wootton 6 (Kearns 52, 6), Boyd 5, Tomlin 5, Tunnicliffe 5, Sinclair 5 (Newell 71, 6), Taylor 5. Subs not used: Thompson, Jones, Gordon-Hutton, Lawlor NEXT MATCH Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (3pm)

PUFC SAFC GOALS 1-0 - Larsson (48mins): Curled a right-footed free-kick in from the left flank, no one managed to get a touch inside the penalty area and the ball sneaked just inside the far post.

2-0 - McClean (58mins): Got above his marker six yards out to head home a Larsson left-wing corner.

BOOKINGS SAFC: Cattermole 88mins (foul) PUFC: Bennett 90mins (foul) REF WATCH MARTIN ATKINSON (West Yorkshire) ........... 7 No controversial incidents - an easy game for the officials.

ATTENDANCE 8,944 FOR THE RECORD This was only the sixth meeting between these sides in all competitions - and Sunderland have won five of them.

SHOT OF THE MATCH Larsson's free-kick which somehow found a way through the crowded penalty area and into the net.

SAVE OF THE MATCH McClean thumped a powerful leftfoot shot against the angle of post and bar in the first half.

MATCH STATS PUFC SAFC Possession 41 59 Shotson3 9 Shots off 6 8 Corners 3 6 Fouls 8 6

CAPTION(S):

SWEDE STRIKE Sebastian Larsson is congratulated by team-mates after scoring and inset left, boss Martin O'Neill
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 9, 2012
Words:849
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