Sunderland picked up a much-needed victory as Lee Johnson’s men safely secured their passage into the last eight of the EFL Trophy at the expense of Port Vale on Tuesday evening.
The Stadium of Light outfit have struggled since returning from their break, drawing against both Northampton Town and Hull City.
However, the Black Cats’ attention moved away from their League One promotion battle as they moved one step closer to a third trip to Wembley in three seasons – one of which was a defeat to Portsmouth in the final of this competition two seasons back.
But on this occasion, it was unfamiliar face that set Sunderland on their way to the quarter-finals when former Millwall forward Aiden O’Brien tucked the hosts into an early advantage – just his second goal since making the move from The Den, with the other also coming in the EFL Trophy.
Quiz: Did these 20 things happen to Sunderland in 2020?
It was his namesake Aiden McGeady that confirmed Sunderland’s place in the next round from the penalty spot, but the Stadium of Light faithful have been focussing on O’Brien’s performance against the Vale – with many calling for Johnson to start in the league at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Here’s how they reacted to O’Brien’s display on Twitter:
He certainly gave the manager a decision to make & I’d agree with you. Much more movement & pace. I’ve been a big critic of O’Brien so far, but he looked up for it tonight, good goal & good interchange play. Lets see if he can keep it up.
— Ian Harrison (@Hag_SAFC) January 12, 2021
Really pleased with safc tonight,o'Brien was very good took his goal well and through ball for penalty was class,has done enough for a start imo.Only thing that frustrates me to death is leadbitter goes backwards when we have players in good forward positions
— clockstand LM (@LeighMa79471576) January 12, 2021
Yep, good signs from o'brien and embleton too so, all good.
— Fury SAFC (@LogicalLee_) January 12, 2021
Despite the level of opposition, really encouraging, looked better and more fluid in attack. Dan Neil staking claim to stay and Embo giving LJ a headache. O'Brien put in good shift and Diamond coming on and cap off the display. Now to bring it into the league. #SAFC #HawayTheLads https://t.co/Uo7uvITfhV
— Ian Crow (@Ian_Crow3) January 12, 2021
O'Brien, Embleton and Neil impressed me tonight! #SAFC
— Lewis Graham (@lewy_g01) January 12, 2021
Comfortable win. O'Brien and Embleton have definitely given Lee Johnson something to tho k about ahead of the weekend #safc
— Kevin (@Kevsafc22) January 12, 2021
FT.#SAFC win 2-0.
Obviously a lower standard of opposition but some very encouraging displays across the pitch.
Aiden O'Brien v, v good leading the line.
— Phil Smith (@Phil__Smith) January 12, 2021
Surely AOB has done enough tonight to start on Saturday
— Scott (@scottgrahampkr) January 12, 2021
Think Gooch and O’Brien have looked brilliant up top, Embleton been much better tonight as well. #SAFC
— Charlie Pelé Hodgson (@chodgson2002) January 12, 2021
Will be hard to leave Embleton and O’Brien out on Sat #safc
— Stuart McClelland (@titch471) January 12, 2021