The three big Sunderland positives for Jack Ross as win sends them into break on a high

This season, it has felt like every game is a cup tie.

Tuesday, 9th October 2018, 10:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 10th October 2018, 4:54 pm
Reece James impressed in the 3-1 win over Carlisle United

Sunderland are a League One scalp and every game has been played at a ferocious tempo.

End-to-end action, feisty atmospheres, plucky opponents.

Reece James impressed in the 3-1 win over Carlisle United

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A light irony then, that these actual cup games have been altogether more pedestrian affairs.

Here Carlisle offered only token resistance.

In certain parts of the game they were tidy on the ball but really, the door was only open for them when the hosts pushed it open themselves.

If Sunderland are to be successful this season, then this night will be a mere footnote.

A welcome step on the road to Wembley, perhaps, but not a test of their promotion credentials as the frantic final 20 minutes at Valley Parade surely was.

Still, it was an occasion with plenty of positives for Jack Ross.

Indeed, there were three standout showings that underlined a squad where competition is rife, even if injuries are multiple.

Ethan Robson has been a surprise and unfortunate absentee from first team action so far this season, undone by injury and the excellent form of others.

After a strong showing on the final day of last season, he looked well place to make his mark in League One.

That has not happened yet but in 45 minutes he showed he has all the attributes to make an impression along the way.

His goal, which put Sunderland 2-1 ahead on the night, was a fine finish that showcased his technique on the ball.

But equally impressive was his tenacity and awareness, a number of good challenges keeping the game moving and his team on the front foot.

With Max Power facing a prolonged absence, Ross will hope the injury that took him from the field of play shortly before half time is not serious.

Even more impressive was Sunderland’s combination play on the left flank.

A couple of weeks ago Reece James looked to be third choice left-back but after showing his resilience in defence on Saturday, here he showed that he can do damage going the other way.

It was crisp passing from the 24-year-old that started the moves for Sunderland’s first two goals, and in the second half he was unlucky not to contribute again as he made inroads towards the byline.

In front of him, Aiden McGeady played with freedom and enjoyment.

Time and time again he had the beating of his marker, looking close to his sharpest after a long summer lay-off.

In this form, he will be a menace when league action returns in ten days time.

The night also offered a welcome opportunity for a raft of youngsters to make their mark on the Stadium of Light turf.

Jack Ross has described Benji Kimpioka as an 'enigma' and on this offering you can see exactly what he means.

He took his goal well and came close to another, showing some good touches and almost creating a number of other opportunities for himself.

His movement and awareness needs work, but for an 18-year-old he has a lot in his favour.

As a wildcard at least, he offer something a touch different while Duncan Watmore and Charlie Wyke recover.

There were debuts, too, for Jack Diamond and Lee Connelly.

Diamond had scored a fine strike at Eppleton the night before and looked bright and breezy in a brief cameo. He has a good first touch and good game awareness, always looking to drive at goal.

Lee Connelly had a great chance to mark his first appearance with a goal, not quite able to beat Adam Collin inside the box.

A comfortable and rewarding evening for Sunderland, even if bigger tests stand on the horizon.