THE FA Youth Cup isn’t just an average game for the Under-18s.
It’s an opportunity; a shop window to show what is bubbling away under the first-team in front of more illustrious spectators than the average league game.
It could well be the only match at this level that Gus Poyet can squeeze into his calendar this season.
But in front of Poyet and his entire backroom staff last night, Sunderland’s hopefuls didn’t do their chances any harm of creating a blip on the head coach’s radar.
Sunderland were stronger, quicker and better technically than Fleetwood Town and it showed with the margin of victory as the Black Cats coasted into the fourth round of the competition for a tie against either Ipswich or Colchester.
Fleetwood couldn’t handle the pace of Sunderland’s elusive widemen Jordan Blinco and Rees Greenwood or the crossfield passes of central midfield pair Ethan Robson and Dylan McEvoy.
With skipper Michael Ledger strong in the heart of the back four too, Fleetwood didn’t even muster an effort on goal until the final 20 minutes.
After a dominant start, Sunderland got on course for victory in the 20th minute when Greenwood burst down the left, cut inside and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area which deflected fortuitously into the path of forward Daniel Wright.
The striker controlled it excellently first-time 12 yards out before delicately lifting a chip over keeper Liam Bleeker.
Five minutes later, Wright turned provider when he sent strike partner Andrew Nelson through on goal, who coolly slipped it low into the far bottom corner.
Fleetwood had a lucky escape in the 36th minute when centre-half Joe Gregory was caught in possession by Wright, but the forward’s attempted chip from 30 yards drifted just wide.
Blinco created havoc in the Fleetwood defence 12 minutes into the second half when he burst in behind down the right-hand side of the box before unleashing an angled shot which was pushed away well by Bleeker.
Moments later, the impressive McEvoy whistled a shot just past the post from 25 yards.
Blinco was again denied by Bleeker in the 76th minute when Wright lifted the ball over the top, but his half-volley was beaten away by the Fleetwood keeper.
Sunderland’s pressure finally told two minutes later when Blinco burst away down the right and laid the ball back low into the path of Wright.
The forward’s shot was blocked by Fleetwood defender Gregory, but then richocheted around the six-yard box before bobbling into the bottom corner.
It was the first of two quick-fire goals, as Blinco finally got on the scoresheet when he powered home Greenwood’s left wing pull-back from 10 yards out.
SUNDERLAND: Talbot, Casey, J Robson (Ellison 84), McEvoy, Colquhoun, Ledger, Blinco, E Robson, Nelson (Molyneux 52), Wright, Greenwood (Pybus 84). Subs not used: Purvis, Lowrie.
FLEETWOOD: Bleeker, Williams, Vile, Smith, Muscat, Gregory, Glean (Nelson 76), Wood, Folksman, Myers (Djabi 69), Hancox (Tetteh 46). Sub not used: Johnstone. Booked: Folksman (49)