Max Power ruling makes a farce of Sunderland's Checkatrade return but there are positives for Jack Ross
That Sunderland ended this game with two points rather summed up their surreal return to the Checkatrade Trophy.
Life in League One has so far offered a welcome change of pace for supporters.
The football has been frenetic and engaging, the atmosphere at the Stadium of Light outstanding and the away days a breath of fresh air.
It is hard to say the same about this game, a strange occasion and a match played at walking pace for most of the opening hour.
The Checkatrade Trophy offers a tantalising opportunity for a trip to Wembley and lift some silverware.
Few Sunderland supporters will quibble if their club has the chance to return to Wembley Way early this year.
The FA, however, rather gave the game away in the build-up to this clash.
Jack Ross on Max Power farce, Stoke City penalty win and Denver Hume's displayMax Power banned because, essentially, the game’s governing body do not view it as a competitive first-team competition.
That stands at stark odds with the EFL’s promotional hashtag for the tournament, ‘#everygamematters’.
Perhaps the tournament will provide some memorable moments as it develops into the latter stages, but this was not the best advert for U21 sides taking a place.
Sunderland did not help much in that regard, it must be said.
They created some good openings in the latter stages but their performance on the whole was flat.
Stoke City, in fairness, played some tidy football without ever threatening Robbin Ruiter. Their centre-forward Tyrese Campbell caused the hosts some problems early on with his ability to stretch the game with his raw pace.
Charlie Adam, a player who once upon a time put in some excellent Premier League performances on this turf, looked like someone whose technical abilities means he still has something to offer a senior side somewhere.
For Jack Ross it will have been difficult to ascertain too much from his own side’s showing.
He and assistant James Fowler cut frustrated figures in the first half, their team struggling to play with any significant tempo.
There was some poor individual displays, but mostly from those who have otherwise excelled in league contests.
Sunderland v Stoke City Player RatingsThe biggest positive was that a number of potentially key players in the weeks and months to come were able to build their match fitness.
Tom Flanagan, a player who excelled in pre-season and looked a certain to begin the campaign, put in a solid display alongside Alim Ozturk at centre-back.
There were some sketchy passes but also some good challenges, some neat play and a comfort in aerial challenges that could be invaluable for the Black Cats.
Dylan McGeouch looked in control and like a player with several gears to go through.
Charlie Wyke did well enough and though Ethan Robson and Luke O’Nien were quieter, the minutes could be valuable as Ross deals with Max Power’s suspension in the coming three league contests.
Most encouragingly of all, Jerome Sinclair made his return to action and looked sharp ahead of the weekend’s visit of Fleetwood Town.
There is nevertheless no escaping the fact that they created few clear openings in the game until the latter period, when the Black Cats finally began to show their superiority.
Josh Maja went close just before the break with a curling effort from the edge of the area, while Denver Hume stung the palms of Daniel Gyollai the other side of half-time.
Hume’s performance from right-back was one of the few positive displays, the naturally left-footed player driving into space and towards goal with every opportunity.
That intensity was sadly lacking in so many other areas of the pitch.
It was Hume’s cross that carved out the game’s best chance, with Benjamin Kimpioka somehow firing over the bar from just yards out.
Moments before, Chris Maguire hit the bar with a wicked free-kick.
The winning goal never materialised, but Sunderland did manage to save face by securing the extra point for penalties.
It felt every bit as strange as it sounds.