Duncan Watmore's impressive return to first team action showcases the new dimension he will add to Sunderland attack

On the hourmark, Sunderland No.2 James Fowler shouted across to Duncan Watmore and he got the thumbs up back.

Wednesday, 5th December 2018, 10:36 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th December 2018, 10:40 am
Duncan Watmore celebrates Sunderland's first goal in the 2-0 win over Notts County.

After more than a year out, he was enjoying his return to action, Watmore played another seven minutes before being withdrawn after a successful return.

When the teams were read out pre-match, there was a huge cheer from the 8,500-strong crowd.

Duncan Watmore celebrates Sunderland's first goal in the 2-0 win over Notts County.

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When he left the pitch, the cheer was even louder.

You won’t meet a more grounded and humble footballer and his return has been widely anticipated.

Jack Ross has spoken at length about not rushing the forward back from injury, Watmore has been training with the first team now for the best part of two months, he was ready to make his return and he impressed.

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Duncan Watmore takes on the Notts County defenders.

If somebody had just wandered into the Stadium of Light they would never have known he had been out for the best part of two years.

Clever movement, full of energy and he still has that blistering pace. He is willing to come deep for the ball and makes good runs across the penalty area and into wide positions.

In a nutshell, Watmore is a constant menace and a nuisance for defenders.

Watmore will fit nicely into the way Ross likes his team to play when he does return to the team on a regular basis, adding another dimension to the Sunderland attack.

This was another significant step on his return to full fitness. And a very welcome one for Ross & Co.

Watmore will grab the headlines but there were a few other Sunderland players that deserve great credit too following the 2-0 win over Notts County in the round of 32 of the Checkatrade Trophy.

Luke O’Nien excelled in the centre of midfield, full of energy and running, Bali Mumba was in an unfamiliar right-wing back role but performed well after a tough start.

Jerome Sinclair’s build-up play is impressive, though he needs to work on his finishing. The second half penalty will help boost his confidence.

Dylan McGeouch returned from injury and showed his class with an assured display, helping dictate play. Plenty of positives for Ross, with youngsters Jack Bainbridge, Jake Hackett and Jack Diamond getting some game time too.

Ross made eight changes but the Scot still named a very strong team, ultimately proving too strong for the League Two strugglers.

It was Watmore’s first Sunderland first team game for over a year, the 24-year-old suffered his second ACL injury in a 2-2 draw with Millwall on November 18, 2017.

Sunderland, lining up in a 3-5-2 system, didn’t get going for a good ten minutes, County enjoying the better early chances.

A Rob Milsom free-kick flew past Robbin Ruiter’s goal before the Dutch keeper was again called upon to gather after Oviedo’s failed to deal with a low cross.

Sunderland quickly grew into the game and their class began to show. There was acres of space on the left wing for Oviedo and Sinclair to exploit.

The breakthrough came after 22 minutes, McGeouch played a sublime pass through for Watmore to run on to.

His effort from an angle was saved but the deflection cannoned in off Dan Jones.

Watmore was subbed in the 67th minute, Benji Kimpioka on for the final 20 minutes, Watmore given a huge reception as he made his way off the pitch.

Sunderland soon doubled their lead, Kimpioka brought down by Jones and Sinclair stepped up to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Sunderland are through to the last 16, Watmore completed a successful return and the Black Cats extended their unbeaten run to 16 games.

A good night all round.