Simon Grayson was left to rue Everton’s ruthlessness after watching his side crash out of the Carabao Cup at the third round.
Sunderland barely laid a glove on Ronald Koeman’s much-changed side with Dominic Calvert-Lewin scoring a brace and Oumar Niasse adding the gloss to a comfortable win.
Grayson insists the defeat wasn’t down to a lack of effort from his Sunderland side, as attentions now turn to reviving fortunes in the Championship.
The Black Cats made six changes themselves, Grayson’s hands forced through injury and ineligible players, in part, while he also had one eye on Saturday’s home game against Cardiff City.
It is the start of another hectic week with the Cardiff game followed by back-to-back away games at Ipswich and Preston before the next international break.
“It was always going to be difficult with the team we put out – we certainly had one eye on the weekend,” said Grayson.
“That’s the difference, because Premier League sides can make changes because of the strength in depth and the players that they have.
“I think Everton were very respectful with the team that they put out, and who they had on the bench in case anything went wrong for them.
“We know we could have done better, but we are very low on numbers due to injuries, with the lads who aren’t available, and with one eye on the weekend.
“The gameplan was to keep it nice and tight, nice and solid, but the goal just before half-time obviously gave them a lift and rocked us a little bit.
“Up to then, we were quite comfortable, but then the game opened up a bit and we were punished for mistakes.
“No matter who you are playing against – but especially Premier League players – if you give them time and space inside the box, they are going to punish you.”
Rising star Calvert-Lewin proved the difference, his two goals capping off a fine individual performance and Grayson was full of praise.
“He’s a talented player, there’s no doubt about that,” added Grayson.
“He’s one of the most promising youngsters around, I think, and he was a handful for us.
“I think just, in general, we allowed him and other players too much time in the box and that was why we got punished. It wasn’t lack of effort.
“We wanted to take the game to them a bit more and the changes we made later on in the game proved that we had better players coming off the bench.
“It was disappointing though, because, regardless of what team we put out, we wanted to make more of a contest of it and win the game.”
Grayson, who made six changes, added: “There were some OK performances.
“I thought Darron Gibson did OK on the ball, we were better when Williams and McManaman came on, but it was that balance of keeping them fresh for the weekend because of the schedule we have got with playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday again next week.”