WINNING at home is what matters to Sunderland, even if there would have been a preference to end the wait for a victory at the Stadium of Light in League One rather than the Papa John’s Trophy.

Nevertheless, by progressing to the quarter-finals of the EFL competition they were beaten finalists of in 2019, Sunderland are up and running again on Wearside - and the hope is more will follow.

Aiden O’Brien’s well-taken opener in the 21st minute was enough to separate the two teams at half-time.

That was how it remained to knock Danny Pugh’s League Two side Port Vale out at the third round stage until Aiden McGeady converted a penalty in the sixth minute of added time after fellow substitute Jack Diamond was brought down.

Despite making plenty of changes Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson will have been impressed by the desire on show from the team he sent out to get the job done. And they did, while making a raft of changes after the restart too.

Goals have been a problem this season for Sunderland and while they barely flowed against the men from Staffordshire, O’Brien’s excellent finish from an equally impressive Lynden Gooch through pass was a sign of what is required more often in these parts.

A lack of such moments is largely the reason why Sunderland had not won at home since November 3; a league game against Ipswich soon followed by the sacking of Phil Parkinson.

Johnson will be keen to follow this up not only with a fine result at Wimbledon this weekend, but when Plymouth and Shrewsbury head to the North-East inside five days next week.

This outing was a further indication of how seriously Johnson is taking the competition, having overcome Oldham in the previous round under his watch.

While clearly promotion has to be the priority, there was certainly enough in his team selection again to suggest he wants to reach Wembley in the final.

There were changes, seven of them from the draw with Hull. Those incoming were hardly inexperienced youngsters. Even Dan Neil and Elliot Embleton, the youngest two introduced, have been in and around the first team squad all season.

The lively Embleton should have earned a penalty early on when Adam Crookes forced him down just inside the area, but referee Declan Bourne deemed it was committed just outside the area. Dino Visser, the visiting goalkeeper, held the midfielder’s curled free-kick towards the near post.

A few minutes later Chris Maguire’s effort was deflected wide after O’Brien had done well to deliver from the left following a pass from Neil. The home side didn’t have to wait too long for the opener.

After a few passes amongst the men in red and white shirts, Gooch spotted O’Brien’s run into the area and slid him the perfect pass. The former Millwall striker didn’t need to control and with his first touch he rolled inside the far corner.

It was the sort of finish and move Sunderland have cried out for more often this season, and it was a question of whether they could come up with more on the night to increase the confidence.

Visser was forced to make a save from Charlie Wyke’s header, and the influence of McGeady, Grant Leadbitter and Diamond from the bench caused further problems too.

Cristian Montano went close to an equaliser, but Diamond went through and was brought down. McGeady struck the penalty to cap a Sunderland home win – and once more a place in the latter stages of the EFL Trophy.