Sunderland trail at Hartlepool

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Half-time: Hartlepool Utd 1 Sunderland 0

SUNDERLAND trailed to Steve Howard’s strike after the opening 45 minutes against League One Hartlepool United.

The Black Cats lacked a cutting edge in the final third and were guilty of surrendering possession cheaply at Victoria Park, with Pools good value for their 1-0 half-time lead.

Ryan Noble was handed his first start of pre-season up front alongside Connor Wickham after grabbing a spectacular winner in Sunderland’s second Peace Cup encounter against Groningen.

Fraizer Campbell was deployed on the right, with Jack Colback on the opposite flank.

Matt Kilgallon made his first appearance of pre-season after missing the tour of South Korea through injury.

Boyhood Sunderland fan Luke James started up front for Hartlepool United, alongside Newcastle United supporter Steve Howard.

Pools enjoyed the first chance of the game in the seventh minute when Howard chipped the ball down the left-hand channel for the moving James.

The 17-year-old turned and sent an inswinging right-foot cross to the far post, where Tony Sweeney got above Kieran Richardson, but directed his header wide of the upright.

But Pools did take the lead within a minute after a clanger from Titus Bramble.

Simon Mignolet’s poor clearance was headed back over the Sunderland defence by Neil Austin and Bramble misjudged the bounce, letting Howard in on goal.

Bramble’s desperate last-gasp challenge was not enough to halt Howard and Pools’ summer signing sent it low past Mignolet into the far corner.

Howard dinked a shot through Bramble’s legs and wide of the post in the 18th minute after a decent build-up from Pools resulted in the former Derby County handed the chance to let fly from 12 yards out to the left of goal.

Noble should have done better in the 29th minute after Jack Colback flipped the ball past Pools right-back Neil Austin and burst down the left.

Colback chipped a cross to the near post, but Noble didn’t get enough on his glancing header and it bounced tamely across goal.

Sunderland mustered their first effort on target in the 35th minute when Fraizer Campbell pulled the ball to the edge of the area into the path of the onrushing David Meyler.

The former Cork City man wrapped his right foot around the ball and made good contact, but the effort went straight at Scott Flinders.

Hartlepool: Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Franks, Walton, Sweeney, Monkhouse, James, Howard. Subs: Murray, Poole, Humphreys, Richards, Holden, Nish.

Sunderland: Mignolet, Gardner, Bramble, Kilgallon, Richardson, Campbell, Meyler, Cattermole, Colback, Noble, Wickham. Subs: Lynch, Reed, Knott, Deacon, Laing, Westwood.