Sunderland continue their Checkatrade Trophy challenge against Wolves Under-21s tonight and Robbie Stockdale is expecting a tough game.
The Under-21s travel to Molineux (7pm kick-off) for the northern section second round game having qualified for the knockout stage as runners-up in Group F.
The competition, previously known as the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, was revamped in the summer with 16 teams with Academy 1 status from the Premier League and Championship invited to enter.
Both Sunderland and Wolves have Academy 1 status and the rules of the competition state ‘invited clubs’ have to name six players under the age of 21 in their starting line-up.
The Checkatrade Trophy has come in for heavy criticism this season, with attendances poor across the group stage of the competition.
But first team coach Stockdale says the competition has been a worthwhile one for Sunderland’s younger players, giving them the chance to test themselves against senior players.
Stockdale said: “We expect a really tough game – they may drop a few first-team players down, especially with them being at home.
“I am sure they will be thinking it is a great opportunity for them to progress, but we go there in good form and hopefully we will progress to the next round.
“Our two away games so far in the competition at Rochdale and Hartlepool felt different to a normal development game.
“All the games have had a good edge and I am not expecting anything less tonight.
“Winner takes all on the night and we want to be in the next round of the competition.
“It has been good to us, players getting good experience playing at that level.
“Wolves have been trying to publicise the game quite strongly so hopefully they will get a few in.”
Jason Denayer, Jan Kirchhoff, Seb Larsson and Vito Mannone have all featured in the competition so far for Sunderland. But with tonight’s game coming quickly on the back of the first-team win over Leicester City, Stockdale is only expecting one or two seniors to feature tonight.
Mannone or Mika is expected to start in goal, with the rest of the team set to be made up of the club’s younger players.
David Moyes will watch from the stand, with first-team coach Stockdale taking charge, with support from Under-23 manager Andy Welsh.
The tie will go straight to penalties if the score is level at full-time. Stockdale added: “In terms of how we have used the competition, it is not to try and win the game using senior players.
“It has been a case of giving the younger players as much exposure to that type of game and the senior boys who needed minutes. We hope it doesn’t go to penalties. We want to win the game in normal time, but, if that is what it takes, then that is what it takes.”