SUNDERLAND’S young guns proved to be the heroes for the second time in as many nights, as the Black Cats secured a 3-0 win at Hartlepool United.
In a game and performance much-improved from the win at Carlisle United 24 hours earlier, Sunderland’s first-teamers dominated the League Two outfit, yet couldn’t get their noses in front - Steven Fletcher coming closest for the Black Cats after firing against the post.
But as at Carlisle, Sunderland secured the win in the final half-hour following the introduction of an entire team of Under-21 players from the bench.
Carl Lawson opened the scoring with a lovely effort from the edge of the box, before a brace from full-back Andrew Cartwright followed in the subsequent eight minutes, as Sunderland secured a third successive pre-season victory.
Fit-again Adam Johnson made his first appearance of pre-season in the only change from the side which started Sunderland’s friendly opener against Darlington 1883 last weekend.
Pools included trialist and former Sunderland man Tommy Miller in midfield.
The hosts had a chance within the opening 60 seconds when a mis-hit shot deflected into the path of striker Luke James, eight yards out, whose stabbed shot was sent behind at his near post by Costel Pantilimon.
Trialist Max Clayton produced a decent effort at the other end in the fifth minute when he met Steven Fletcher’s lay-off with a first-time right-footed effort from 25 yards which he planted just wide.
Fletcher drew a save out of Pools keeper Scott Flinders in the 16th minute after the lively El-Hadji Ba pounced on a loose ball and threaded a perfectly weighted pass down the left-hand channel.
It was an acute angle fot Fletcher, but he got a left-footed shot on target which Flinders was unable to hold cleanly.
Ba produced another excellent pass in the 24th minute when he picked out Johnson on the right-hand touchline with a raking crossfield ball.
Johnson’s first touch was immaculate to get away from left-back Darren Holden, but he sent his shot a couple of feet over the top after cutting inside.
The woodwork denied the Black Cats two minutes later after Brad Walker’s awful pass left the visitors with a two-on-one.
Johnson played a reverse pass to Fletcher, to the right of goal, but his shot across goal bounced off the outside of the far post.
HALF-TIME Pools 0 Sunderland 0
Ex-Middlesbrough man Stuart Parnaby shot straight at Pantilimon in the 55th minute after racing into the gap left by Valentin Roberge’s burst out of the Sunderland back-line.
Four minutes later, Clayton stepped inside off the left and unleashed a powerful right-footed cross come shot across the face which Fletcher just couldn’t get a touch to.
Just after the hour mark, Poyet repeated his ploy from Carlisle 24 hours earlier after introducing a team of Under-21 players from the bench.
Midfielder George Honeyman attempted a chip from the edge of the area in the 67th minute which just cleared the crossbar.
Sunderland went ahead three minutes later, with a lovely team goal.
The Black Cats youngsters produced a spell of sustained one and two-touch possession football on the edge of the Pools box before Mikael Mandron laid it off to Lawson, who swept the ball elegantly into the far corner from 18 yards.
Sunderland doubled their advantage in the 72nd minute when Lynden Gooch fed the overlapping Cartwright down the right-hand side of the box and the full-back managed to bring it under control before poking it beyond Flinders.
It was 3-0 five minutes later, as Cartwright’s right-wing cross deflected off ex-Boro defender Matthew Bates and wrong-footed Flinders.
FULL-TIME Pools 0 Sunderland 3
HARTLEPOOL: Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Bates, Holden, Parnaby, Miller, Walker, Harewood (Franks 46), James, Compton (Smith 74) Subs not used: Rafferty, Woods, Rowbotham, Nearney, Hawkins, Rowbotham, Jones.
SUNDERLAND: Pantilimon (Pickford 62), Watmore (Cartwright 62), Roberge (Harrison 62), O’Shea (Beadling 62), Ferguson (T Robson 62), Cattermole (Smith 62), Larsson (Agnew 62), Ba (Honeyman 62), Clayton (Lawson 62), Johnson (Gooch 62), Fletcher (Mandron 62)
Attendance: 5,617 (3252 away)