Five debuts and a late Josh Maja winner see Sunderland top their Checkatrade Trophy group

It was not a game that will live long in the memory but for Sunderland it was very much job done.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 13 November, 2018, 20:38
Josh Maja celebrates his late winner

A number of players got valuable minutes under their belt, jack Ross picking up no new injuries.

Five youngsters were handed their full debuts and did themselves no disservice.

And thanks to a late winner from Josh Maja, Sunderland topped their group and secured a home draw for the first knockout round of the Checkatrade Trophy.

A remarkable away following of almost 1,600 supporters sang 'que sera, sera' as the final whistle blew.

It may not be the most glamorous trophy but it is serving a purpose for Sunderland, who can begin to dream of a return to Wembley.

Sunderland looked in control for most of the first half, even if it was Morecambe who fashioned the two best chances.

The Black Cats moved to a 3-5-2 system to accommodate the debut of Jack Bainbridge, with Bryan Oviedo and Jordan Hunter tasked with offering the width for their team-mates.

It allowed them to comfortably keep the ball, dominating without being particularly incisive.

Jake Hackett impressed in midfield, tidy on the ball and showing good composure.

They survived an early scare when Jason Oswell headed a corner at goal, Luke O'Nien making the clearance off the line.

Sunderland began to make their quality show, and came close with one sweeping passing move that started with goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter. Hunter collected a pass and cut inside, forcing a good save from Mark Halstead in the Morecambe goal.

Hackett forced Halstead into action again soon after, the goalkeeper doing well to turn a dangerous ball away from danger.

Morecambe hit the post when Ruiter missed a cross into the box, the ball breaking to the edge of the area where Sam Lavelle's strike almost put his side in the lead.

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The Black Cats regained the composure and looked the more likely as the half drew to a close.

They took complete control at the start of the second, dominating possession and pushing Morecambe towards their own goal.

Their first sight of goal came when the lively Jack Diamond broke into the box, Halstead getting down well to collect his low shot.

The tempo of the game dropped and Sunderland were fortunate when Ruiter was almost caught out by a routine cross from Kevin Ellison. They responded by creating an opening of their own, Bryan Oviedo's cross just evading Josh Maja as he broke into the six-yard box.

Sunderland continued to dominate, but substitute Brandon Taylor had to deal with a dangerous cross to the back post. From the following corner Ruiter made a good save as the hosts pushed for an unlikely winner.

The game looked to be drifting to a penalty shoot out before Maja's intervention, gathering another good cross from Oviedo and finishing well.

Sunderland XI: Ruiter; Hunter (Taylor, 60) Bainbridge, Loovens, Ozturk, Oviedo; Power, O'Nien, Hackett (Neil, 90) Diamond (Connelly, 65), Maja

Subs: Patterson, Leonard, Kokolo, Young

Morecambe XI: Halstead; Cranston, Yarney, Lavelle, Conlan; Kenyon, Cuvelier (Tutte, 57); Thompson (Hedley, 76), Mendes (Piggott, 68) Ellison; Oswell

Subs: Szczepaniak, Old, Mandeville, Brownsword

Attendance: 2,377 (1,569 away)

Bookings: Kenyon, 35 Cuvelier, 45 Thompson, 54