Six things: Sunderland academy products provide much-needed hope but Jason Steele form comes too late

Sunderland suffered their 23rd defeat of a miserable campaign against Fulham on Friday night.

Sunday, 29th April 2018, 10:27 am
Updated Sunday, 29th April 2018, 10:31 am
Joel Asoro scores against Fulham.

Here's what we learned from the 2-1 loss at Craven Cottage.

Youngsters catch the eye.

Joel Asoro scores against Fulham.

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It was another proud night for the Sunderland academy with Ethan Robson, George Honeyman and Joel Asoro all starting.

The bench included Josh Maja and 16-year-old Bali Mumba, while Elliot Embleton, Luke Molyneux also travelled with the squad.

There is a core of exciting young talent at the club, with Lynden Gooch also heavily involved this season. They will all have a bigger role to play next season.

Jason Steele emerges with credit.

Sunderland fans at Craven Cottage.

Fans, pundits and journalists alike have been quick to criticise Steele this season but credit where it is due, he was one of the star performers against Fulham.

His confidence is growing, shame it has come too late in the season.

Steele returned against Burton Albion and performed well, and he produced another strong showing against Fulham, confident coming for crosses, several shots saved.

Solving the problems in goal remain a summer priority. Seven times there has been a change in goal this campaign. Seven. Incredible.

In association with Grand Central.

The entire defence against Fulham could be on the way out.

John O'Shea, Billy Jones and Marc Wilson. All started. All out of contract. O'Shea could yet be offered a player-coach role but surely Jones and Wilson will be shown the door.

Lamine Kone is under contract but Sunderland will aim to move the high earner on.

If Sunderland's goalkeeping unit needs a revamp, the defence certainty does. Sunderland conceded goals number 79 and 80 of a desperate league campaign.

Joel Asoro scores against Fulham.

An embarrassing statistic.

It's a good job the result didn't matter for Sunderland.

Sunderland were well within their rights to feel hard done to by referee Peter Bankes and his officials.

Sunderland, leading 1-0, should have been awarded a penalty after Tim Ream clearly fouled Liverpool loanee Ovie Ejaria.

And what happened next? 60 seconds later Fulham equalised and went on to win through Aleksandar Mitrovic's header. Mitrovic offside from the free-kick.

Two howlers that cost Sunderland. The Black Cats were already relegated, of course, but it left a bitter taste in Chris Coleman's mouth, nonetheless.

Sunderland fans at Craven Cottage.

Little between the two sides.

One team was rooted to the foot of the Championship, the other gunning for automatic promotion yet there was little to separate the two sides at Craven Cottage.

Fulham's second half pressure eventually proved too much but Sunderland proved once again that they are capable of mixing it in this division.

Fans left bewildered as to why it took until Easter to spark a run of performances together.

Too little too late for Sunderland now, who face a major summer overhaul.

Wooden spoon for Sunderland.

Well, just to cap off a disastrous 2017-18 campaign, Sunderland will now finish bottom of the Championship.

Defeat to Fulham means Sunderland can finish no higher than 24th. What a shambles this season has been.

This summer is a chance for a complete reboot.

But it will only come if Ellis Short can finally find someone to sell to.

In association with Grand Central.