Sunderland 1 Kidderminster Harriers 0: Mavrias fires first goal in a Black Cats shirt to put Poyet’s cup specialists through
Charis Mavrias leapt out of anonymity to maintain Sunderland’s two-pronged cup attack with what turned out to be a decisive fifth-minute strike.
Apart from an 88th-minute scare when substitute Freddie Ladapo pulled his shot wide, Kidderminster rarely troubled their Premier League opponents.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet made no bones about the 10 changes in his starting line-up, explaining that the dramatic events of their Capital One Cup semi-final win at Manchester United on Wednesday had taken a severe physical and mental strain on his players.
On target: Charis Mavrias fires home to give the hosts an early lead
On target: Sunderland players rush to congratulate Charalampos Mavrias (second left) after the Greek broke the deadlock
Sunderland: Ustari 7; Celustka 6, Vergini 7, Diakite 6, Roberge 6; Cattermole 7 (Colback 72, 6); Larsson 6, Ba 6 (Gardner 66, 6), Giaccherini 5 (Borini 66, 6), Mavrias 6; Altidore 5. Subs not used: Ki, O’Shea, Watmore, Pickford.
Booked: Mavrias, Ba.
Goal: Mavrias 5.
Kidderminster Harriers: Lewis 6; L.Vaughan 6, Gowling 7, Demetriou 7, Jackman 6; Storer 7, Dyer 6 (Aloi 82); Morgan-Smith 6 (Ladapo 68, 7), Byrne 6, M.Johnson 6 (Gittings 68, 6); Gash 6. Subs not used: Dunkley, Malbon, Angus, N.Vaughan.
Referee: Roger East 6.
Man of the match: Lee Cattermole.
**Ratings by Colin Young at the Stadium of Light**
There are also two crucial Premier League priorities this week, including Saturday’s North East derby at Newcastle.
‘The challenge is to stay in the Premier League,’ said Poyet. ‘That was my challenge when I got the job.’
‘Then it was difficult. The more the game went on and on, the players didn’t know each other and they needed to make decisions, not in ones, but in twos and threes.
‘It wasn’t there. The connection, the ability, the understanding wasn’t there, so we need to accept it as it comes.
‘I’m not going to watch the game again and I’m not going to analyse too much because I don’t think it’s very, very important, apart from 90 minutes for a few players, nothing else.’
The Skrill Premier outfit tested debutant goalkeeper Oscar Ustari just once and it was carelessness from £8million Italy international Emanuele Giaccherini that provided Mike Gash with the opportunity.
‘Mike did nothing wrong, it was just a great save by the keeper,’ said Kidderminster manager Andy Thorn.
‘On another day it could have gone in.’
Making a nuisance of himself: Kiddie’s Michael Gash fires in a shot at the Stadium of Light
Eyes on the ball: Gash controls in the box as Black Cats keeper Oscar Usteri looks on
The early goal, when Greek-born teenager Mavrias pounced on a mistake by Josh Gowling and hit a right-footer past Danny Lewis, should have provided the ideal platform for a convincing victory.
Instead, the home team’s ineptitude allowed Thorn to enthuse about his team’s commitment and character in staying in the game until the final whistle. The Harriers boss tasted FA Cup success as a Wimbledon player in the 1988 final. But there was no fairytale here — just the harsh reality of failing to exploit opposition who were Premier League in name only.
All arms and legs: Gash vies with Modibo Diakite
Full-blooded: Sunderland’s Emanuele Giaccherini shows no mercy on Gash or Kiddie team-mate Amari Morgan-Smith
‘I was immensely proud of the players,’ he said. ‘I thought they were magnificent.
‘When we conceded as early as we did, sometimes you can finish on the end of a cricket score — but I was pleased we showed the character we did and the belief in what we’re trying to do at the club.
‘For us to be in our dressing room now and feeling disappointed we’re not coming away with a replay speaks volumes for the performance the players put in.’
Missed opportunity: Substitute Frederick Ladapo missed a good opportunity late on
How did I miss? Ladapo rues his chance
Spare seats: The Stadium of Light was far from full as the FA Cup hit town
Leading the way: Andy Thorn’s Kidderminster saw their Cup run conclude on Wearside