KEVIN BALL began his second caretaker stewardship of Sunderland by successfully steering the Black Cats into the fourth round of the Capital One Cup after comfortably vanquishing League One Peterborough.
Sunderland’s players responded to Sunday’s sacking of Paolo Di Canio by producing arguably their best performance of the season, albeit against lower league opposition.
Emanuele Giaccherini opened the scoring by converting Lee Cattermole’s cross after he had missed a gilt-edged opportunity moments earlier.
But despite their domination, Sunderland had to wait until the final 20 minutes to secure their victory, as substitute Valentin Roberge headed home his first in red and white.
Ball made four changes to the starting XI, including a first start since February for former skipper Lee Cattermole.
Seb Larsson, Jozy Altidore and Carlos Cuellar, who made his first appearance of the season, were also handed an opportunity, with Fabio Borini, the injured Steven Fletcher, Ondrej Celustka and Modibo Diakite missing out.
Peterborough boss Darren Ferguson made two changes to his side with defensive pair Kgosi Ntlhe and Gabriel Zakuani replacing suspended duo Mark Little and Nathaniel Knight-Percival.
Posh midfielder Danny Swanson produced the first effort on target in the fourth minute when he let fly with a skidding right-footed drive from the edge of the area which Keiren Westwood gathered at the second attempt.
Four minutes later, it needed a good save from Bobby Olejnik to prevent Jozy Altidore breaking the deadlock.
Emanuele Giaccherini threaded a perfectly-weighted slide rule pass down the right-hand side of the area and Altidore ran onto it before hitting a first-time right-footed shot across goal from a narrow angle which was well blocked by the outstretched leg of Olejnik.
Craig Gardner headed a Seb Larsson corner a yard wide at the second attempt in the 17th minute after his initial effort had been sent skywards.
Giaccherini then missed a gilt-edged opportunity to break the deadlock in the 26th minute.
Jack Colback delivered a low cross from the left-hand by-line and the ball bounced perfectly for the onrushing Giaccherini, but the Italian couldn’t get over his shot and he skied it over the top from six yards.
Giaccherini produced far better in the 32nd minute as Sunderland’s pressure paid off with the opener.
Cattermole delivered an inviting low cross from the right which Giaccherini cushioned neatly with his right-foot into the corner.
The woodwork denied Sunderland a second a minute before the interval when Altidore unleashed a low right-footed drive from 25 yards which skidded off the turf and crashed against the outside of the far post.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 1 Peterborough 0
Adam Johnson was inches away from doubling Sunderland’s advantage in the 54th minute when he curled a left-footed shot from the right-hand side of the area which drifted just beyond the far post.
Britt Assomblanga tried his luck from 25 yards in the 68th minute but it was straight at Westwood and although the Ireland keeper initially spilled, he comfortably gathered at the second attempt.
Sunderland’s second finally arrived in the 73rd minute when Olejnik could only partially clear Larsson’s corner and the ball came out to Johnson on the right-hand side of the area.
Johnson’s cross was met by a pinpoint header from substitute Valentin Roberge, with the ball soaring into the top corner.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 2 Peterborough 0
SUNDERLAND: Westwood, Gardner, Cuellar, O’Shea (Roberge 61), Colback, Cattermole, Larsson, Ki, Johnson, GIaccherini (Borini 81), Altidore (Wickham 85). Subs not used: Mannone, Cabral, Ba, Mavrias. Booked: Ki (7), Cuellar (49), Colback (59), Johnson (69)
PETERBOROUGH: Olejnik, Alcock, Bostwick, Zakuani, Ntlhe, Barnet, Swanson, Payne (Mendez-Laing 75), Rowe (McCann 64), Assombalonga, Tomlin (Newell 11). Subs not used: Day, Brisley, Gordon, Ferdinand.