Sunderland are a step closer to Wembley after their 2-0 Checkatrade Trophy win over Notts County - and Jack Ross believes the attitude of his players was key.
Ross made eight changes with just Max Power, Luke O’Nien and Bryan Oviedo starting from the side that drew with Walsall in the FA Cup.
Despite the widespread changes Sunderland still named a strong side and proved too strong for the League Two strugglers.
Sunderland are now just three wins away from the Wembley final having made it safely into the last 16, a Dan Jones own goal and Jerome Sinclair penalty sealing victory.
Ross said: “The players are the ones that deserve the credit.
“We’ve tried to treat the competition properly and progress in it – I think we’ve shown that – but equally we’ve tried to pick a team that works around our other fixture commitments as well.
“That only works if the players that get an opportunity approach it in the right way and have an appetite for the games.
“This was another example of those players having absolutely the right approach towards it.
“I thought they were good, I enjoyed watching them. I couldn’t have asked any more in terms of how they went about their business.
“We’ve always been aware that prize [Wembley] is there, and I think that’s part of the reason why we’ve approached the competition in the way we have.
“I would never have done it at the sacrifice of what we want to achieve in the league, but the timing of the games and where we’ve been as a squad has probably worked in our favour.
“It’s as good as it could be for me, the fact that we’ve continued to progress in the tournament with that prize at stake, while being able to use all our squad within it as well.”