Former Sunderland midfielder Alex Rae paid tribute to Notts County striker Lee Hughes after his goal ultimately dumped the Black Cats out of the FA Cup.

The 34-year-old's sixth strike in seven games 15 minutes from time put the visitors into a 2-0 lead which the Barclays Premier League side were unable to erase in a late fightback.

County assistant boss Rae said: "He's an absolute handful. He has scored six goals in seven games, so he has still got a lot to offer. But it is not just that, his physical presence helps us a lot as well. He gets a lot of flick-ons and he is a handful."

Hughes also had a hand in the opening goal, which came in controversial circumstances with home keeper Simon Mignolet appealing in vain for a foul.

Craig Westcarr's flick from Ben Davies' cross looked harmless until Kieran Richardson collided with Mignolet as he tried to claim the ball under pressure from the former West Brom striker.

Sunderland's response was tepid, although record singing Asamoah Gyan passed up a glorious chance to equalise in the final minute of the first half.

They were little better after the break and the game looked to be over when Hughes carved his way through the home defence and after Mignolet had blocked his initial effort, drilled the loose ball into the empty net.

Hughes' celebrations did not go down well with the home fans, whose hopes were raised briefly when Darren Bent converted an 81st-minute penalty, but the England striker headed over in the sixth minute of injury time as a belated fightback came up short.

Rae, who was sent up to do the post-match press conference by superstitious manager Paul Ince after doing so throughout the League One club's unbeaten seven-game run, said when asked about the opening goal: "To be honest, I never saw it.

"Somebody said maybe Hughesy might have pushed someone, but I still haven't seen it. But it settled us down a little bit, getting the early goal. Once you have got that lead, it's always something to cling on to and you tend to find an extra yard."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Topics:
#Sunderland
#West Bromwich Albion
#Simon Mignolet
#League One
#Craig Westcarr
#Premier League
#Ben Davies
#Alex
#Lee Hughes
#Asamoah Gyan
#Kieran Richardson
#Darren Bent
#FA Cup
#Notts County
Flag article