Lee Johnson on the Bradford City Papa John's Trophy draw - and why his senior players will benefit
Lee Johnson says Sunderland's Papa John's Trophy draw with Bradford City will have helped 'sharpen' a number of senior players ahead of a crucial League One clash with Ipswich Town next weekend.
The Black Cats were unable to turn around their poor form around against Derek Adams' side, drawing 1-1 in normal time before the visitors won an ultimately meaningless bonus point with a 4-2 penalty shootout win.
The draw means that the Black Cats did finish top of their group, having already secured their progression with two wins in previous games.
They will now be guaranteed a home draw in the next round.
Johnson named a strong side and said that a number of his players will be better for the runout.
Bradford City took a half-time lead through Theo Robinson's close-range finish, before a fine goal from Nathan Broadhead levelled the scores with a superb goal early in the second half.
Both sides had chances to seal the win in normal time, and the head coach said the aggression from his side in the second half was much improved.
The head coach said the game had 'served a purpose' for his side, with a number of U23 players gaining more valuable exposure.
"It needed to serve a purpose for us," Johnson said.
"The fact that we already were through in the competition allowed us to make decisions based on the Ipswich game and the development of our younger players.
"Clearly some of our senior players were a little bit rusty, having come back from injury or little knocks and niggles, and will be better for it.
"Senior players have had a little sharpener which I'm happy with, and I'm happy with how the U23s who stepped up performed.
"At half time you get an opportunity to coach a little bit and the main thing was our backline needed to be a lot more aggressive, a lot stronger, a lot more dominant in body and voice.
"When we showed that, it allowed our technical players to be closer and more compact," he added.
"We're quick enough in that backline, so we could be that five or six yards higher. That's something we want to see more of at first-team level, we want that speed and power.
"We did show that I thought and to be honest, we should have scored three or four in that second half.
"For me there were a lot of positives in preparation for that Ipswich game.
"We want to win games but we've also got to think about the project, and I've got to be brave and keep doing the right things no matter what the external feeling is at the time.
"The U23 players have contributed really well this year.
"I was alright with tonight.
"We wanted to use it help prepare for Ipswich, and it was really important with that.
"You could see a couple of our players were rusty and they will be much better for that game."
The draw for the next round will be on Saturday lunchtime, and remains regionalised at this stage.