VICTORY continues to elude Sunderland’s first team, yet the second string are suffering no such problems.
Keith Bertschin’s side coasted past Swansea City with a 2-0 success at the Academy of Light yesterday to make it three wins out of four for the campaign in the Premier Reserve League.
In an encounter marred by the unpredictably of the swirling wind, a quickfire first-half double from the impressive Jordan Cook proved enough for a Sunderland side rarely threatened by the visitors.
Republic of Ireland stopper Keiren Westwood, the only first-teamer on show, was more concerned by the bitterness of the breeze than a Swansea attack which included former Sunderland winger Tommy Butler.
But there was sufficient to admire around Sunderland’s attacking play, particularly the contribution of Cook before the 21-year-old was withdrawn just before the interval with a slight hamstring problem.
Cook is not an out-of-out striker, but, with the reserves short of natural frontmen in the absence of the injured Oumare Tounkara, the academy product didn’t shirk from the job of leading Sunderland’s line.
The former Walsall loanee is a much stronger specimen these days and held the ball up well as one of the few players to get to grips with the conditions in the opening 45 minutes.
Just 30 seconds in, Cook pounced on Lee Lucas’s loose pass and let fly from 25 yards with a dipping shot which arrowed into the side netting.
Cook then turned provider when he barged his way into the Swansea area and teed up Craig Lynch, six yards out, whose snap shot was blocked by keeper Jose Moreiera.
The opener arrived in the 33rd minute when Billy Knott nicked the ball from Swansea sub Henry Jones and exchanged passes with Cook before the latter swept it under Moreira.
Knott again provided the assist four minutes when he touched the ball into the path of Cook, 20 yards out, who let fly with a shot that deflected into the corner.
In Cook’s absence, Sunderland lacked the threat of a natural forward in the second half. But they didn’t make a bad fist of it.
Midfielder Knott was asked to lead the line in Cook’s absence and kept the Swansea back four on its toes by dropping deep.
The 18-year-old has bulked up over the summer and he is beginning to find space and make the most of his vision.
He was ably supported by summer signing James McClean, with the ex-Derry winger providing some evidence of why Sunderland shelled out £300,000 to land the 22-year-old. After switching to the right for the second half, McClean made several telling rampages down the flank to stretch Swansea’s defence.
He provided what should have been Sunderland’s third on the hour mark when his low cross bobbled into the area and was scooped over the top by Knott from six yards out.
Three minutes later, McClean had a go himself when he created a yard of space to the right of goal on the edge of the area and let fly with a piledriver that Moreira did well to beat away.
Sunderland went close for a third time in the 65th minute when Swansea’s back line was out-of-synch as McClean burst down the right.
He squared the ball to the unmarked Adam Mitchell, in space 10 yards out, but the pass lacked pace and the substitute could only sweep his shot into the side netting.
SUNDERLAND RESERVES: Westwood, Bagnall, Watson (Marrs 46), Reed, Egan, Laing, Lynch, Gorrin (Armstrong 69), Cook (Mitchell 43), Knott, McClean. Subs not used: Pickford, Martin.
SWANSEA RES: Moreira, Richards, Davies, Alfei, Walsh, Lucas, Smith (Jones 21), Thomas (Loveridge 19), Cotterill, March, Butler. Booked: Davies (77)