TITUS Bramble saw his hopes of a Sunderland comeback ruined after picking up a knee injury just hours before last night’s reserve team derby.
Bramble had been due to make his first appearance since returning to training following a six-week club suspension, in the second string’s clash with Newcastle at the Stadium of Light.
But the centre-half (right) was withdrawn as a precaution after suffering a slight knock to his knee in training at the Academy of Light yesterday morning.
Reserve team boss Keith Bertschin told the Echo: “Titus had a little niggle.
“There was a bit of pain on his knee and it was wiser to leave him out.
“We don’t know how bad it is, but he hasn’t played much recently so we decided not to play him because if it gets worse, he could be out for much longer.
“Hopefully we’ve caught it quick and he’ll be okay within days rather than weeks. I’m sure when he’s fit and able, he’ll need a game with us.”
Ryan Noble’s hat-trick earned Sunderland what was ultimately a comfortable win against a youthful Newcastle outfit, who were reduced to 10 men in the dying seconds.
Bertschin felt Noble’s 34th minute opener was the turning point in the game after the early exchanges were typically scrappy. “I think both teams were untidy until the opening goal and even beyond that,” said the former Sunderland striker.
“There were a lot of nerves, a lot of these boys are local lads, there was a bit of a crowd and the Stadium of Light – it’s different to what they’re normally used to.
“However, we got the first goal, Trevor (Carson) denied them with a super stop and then we went on to get a second one.
“We had to make sure at half-time they understood we’re a hell of a lot better team than that.
“Consequently, within 30 seconds of the re-start, we made it three with a really well-worked goal.
“Then it was just a case of keeping the ball and going forward when we could.
“The game opened up a bit and it had to slow down a bit because it had been helter-skelter through the first 40 or 50 minutes.”
Bertschin added: “There were some terrific performances – John Egan and Matthew Kilgallon were great at the back and Trevor when he was called upon was class.
“Young James McClean is getting the hang of it and even when he had a badly-sprained ankle, we almost had to drag him off. That’s a wonderful attitude to have.
“And of course, Ryan can’t go unnoticed because he got his three goals.
“He’s been out a long time, but he looked fit and lively and took his chances well.”
Meanwhile, summer signing McClean is expected to be out of action for around 10 days after going over on his ankle.
The former Derry City winger soldiered through the final 10 minutes after Sunderland had used all three substitutes, but eventually limped off in stoppage time.