SEB Larsson insists Sunderland made a conscious effort to avoid dwelling on the loss of key trio Lee Cattermole, Stephane Sessegnon and Kieran Richardson.
Sunderland skipper Cattermole and previously ever-present forward Sessegnon began their suspensions for Tyne-Wear derby red cards against Liverpool on Saturday, while Richardson was ruled out with the calf strain he sustained at the St James’s Park.
The Black Cats could easily have sulked at their depleted options as they faced a Liverpool side still boasting outside hopes of a Champions League finish, after Carling Cup success secured the first trophy of Kenny Dalglish’s second reign as manager.
But Larsson believes the trio introduced into the starting XI – Wayne Bridge, Jack Colback and Fraizer Campbell – along with the existing members of the side were determined to concentrate on the assets of those who were available.
“It was obviously disappointing missing them,” Larsson said. “They are three very good players and they have done very well for us.
“But the manager said before the game, ‘Let’s not worry about that, let’s focus on whoever can play and what we can do’.
“We were desperate to get the three points and we are more than happy that we got them.”
Victory ended Sunderland’s three-game winless league run and took the Wearsiders’ tally to four points in the two encounters following their 4-0 rout at West Brom.
Larsson hopes that defeat at the Hawthorns ultimately proves to have been a “wake-up call” for O’Neill’s side, as Sunderland prepare for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter final against in-form Everton.
The 26-year-old added: “We know what we have to do to be successful. Since the manager came in, we have had one reality check and that was away to West Brom.
“We said then, ‘Let’s not repeat that’, and so far, we haven’t. If we work as hard as we did on Saturday and the previous weekend, we know we are a good team.
“We know we can win games and we have beaten some big teams at home now and we feel very close to them.
“Winning football games gives you confidence and we have been on a decent run – apart from one game – and we would like to keep the level of performance going.
“We did that on Saturday and that should give us confidence going into next weekend.”