KEITH Bertschin hopes Ryan Noble’s injury problems are behind him after the striker made a scoring return for Sunderland’s second string.
Noble came off the bench to grab Sunderland’s third in last night’s 6-1 Central League Cup drubbing of neighbours Hartlepool United and was lively in his first outing since returning to full fitness.
The 20-year-old, who made his Premier League bow last season, had been sidelined since July after suffering a second stress fracture to his back within the space of a year, sustained on England duty ahead of the summer’s U20 World Cup.
After Noble’s chance of gaining vital first-team experience during a loan move to Derby County were ruined by injury last season, reserves boss Bertschin is eager for the Millfield-born frontman to enjoy a sustained run in the side.
Bertschin said: “Obviously Ryan has had a real problem with his back and you always worry about back injuries.
“He’s been patient and done what he’s been told. He’s happy to be back, enthusiastic, got himself a goal and could have had another one.
“Hopefully that will be the injury behind him now and he can look to getting back to being match-fit and have some real belief that his back is sorted out.
“He’ll be another great asset for us.”
Meanwhile, Bertschin confirmed Sunderland will make a decision this week on trialist Aristote Guerin-Lokonga, who made his second appearance for the reserves last night.
The Congo-born Jarrow Roofing frontman has spent the last two-and-a-half weeks with Bertschin’s development squad and notched the fourth-minute opener against Pools.
“I just wanted to have one more look,” added Bertschin.
“He’s been enthusiastic and keen and done himself proud really. It was a super finish from him.
“We’ll decide through the week what we’re going to do with the situation.
“He hasn’t done himself any harm so we’ll wait and see.”