Aiden O’Brien’s brilliant reaction, Sunderland's goalkeeper shortage and other moments you might have missed in thrilling Blackpool win

Many will have seen the highlights of Sunderland’s thrilling 3-2 win over Blackpool in the Carabao Cup – but there were some moments the cameras may have missed.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 11:00 am

Aiden O’Brien netted his first hat-trick for the Black Cats, which included a dramatic stoppage-time winner in front of the travelling red and white army.

It capped off an action-packed cup tie as Sunderland boss Lee Johnson handed out a couple of debuts to new signings.

From tactical alterations to some eye-catching performancest, here are some of the moments you might have missed at the Bloomfield Road:

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Aiden O'Brien scores Sunderland's winning goal at Blackpool.

Aiden O’Brien’s brilliant reaction

Let’s start with the match-winner.

So far it’s been a frustrating season for O’Brien who has played just 34 minutes from the bench in Sunderland’s first four League One games.

Not that you could tell, as the 27-year-old forward left Bloomfield Road with a memorable hat-trick, a grin on his face and lots of appreciation from the away fans.

Admittedly, O’Brien’s second goal, which was set up by Alex Pritchard’s outswinging corner, did take a big deflection off Blackpool defender Daníel Gretarsson, yet the forward constantly found himself in dangerous positions.

The 27-year-old also worked tirelessly off the ball, as he switched roles with Jack Diamond on the flanks and tracked back when his side lost possession.

Clearly O’Brien will be frustrated at his lack of game time in recent weeks, yet he was ready for this opportunity.

After scoring the winner, when he had to check if he was onside, the forward charged towards the jubilant away fans behind the goal before launching himself into a big knee slide near the corner flag.

When the Sunderland supporters were chanting ‘Oh Aiden O’Brien’ at the full-time whistle, the hat-trick hero went to greet them, along with the rest of the squad, with a beaming smile on his face.

O’Brien has been patient for his chance and took it with both hands.

Wholesale changes and a young side

O’Brien was one of seven Sunderland changes made by Johnson following Saturday’s 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon, while Blackpool boss Neil Critchly changed nine of his players after a 2-2 draw at Bournemouth in the Championship.

Still, the alterations didn’t dilute a gripping contest as both sides tried to play on the front foot and were encouraged by their supporters.

Johnson named a young side with an average age of 23.7, which included new signings Frederik Alves, who joined on loan from West Ham, and Niall Huggins, who made their debuts.

Teenagers Dan Neil and Dennis Cirkin were also included, while Bailey Wright, 29, Carl Winchester, 28, and O’Brien added experience to the team.

After a tentative start, when he allowed Tyreece John-Jules to cross for the opening goal, Alves grew into the game and won some important headers in the second half.

Huggins, understandably, also looked a little rusty as some of his crosses and passes went astray, yet there was clearly a willingness to get forward from right-back and to play the ball forward.

Still, the changes showed that Johnson has options at his disposal, as the likes of Aiden McGeady and Luke O’Nien were rested and left out of the squad altogether.

Dan Neil impresses again

The teenager’s rise into the first team has been rapid this season, and the 19-year-old is the only player to start every game, league and cup, for the Black Cats this season.

Neil clocked up another 90 minutes at Bloomfield Road, in his natural midfield role, and was once again comfortable receiving the ball in his own half while regularly looking for a forward pass.

Sunderland’s first goal came just three minutes after they fell behind, when Neil split the Blackpool defence with a perfectly-weighted pass, which took four opponents out of the game and set up O’Brien.

Neil started in midfield alongside Winchester, who moved into the engine room from right-back, and the Northern Irishman also demonstrated his excellent passing range while breaking up play.

Sunderland’s goalkeeper shortage

Lee Burge was a late drop out for Sunderland’s game against Wimbledon after picking up a niggle in the warm-up.

Johnson expects the 28-year-old to be available for Saturday’s home game against Wycombe, yet Burge wasn’t included in the squad to face Blackpool.

As expected, Anthony Patterson kept his place between the sticks, yet there was a new name on the bench as 17-year-old Harrison Bond was included in the squad for the first time.

That is because Sunderland’s third choice goalkeeper Jacob Carney, 20, has been sidelined with a finger injury.

The Black Cats are keen to sign young goalkeeper Jack McIntyre, 18, who was released by Everton and has been playing for Sunderland’s under-23 side on trial.

Yet McIntyre is still yet to sign a contract and wasn’t available for the Blackpool fixture.

A familiar face

Sunderland fans may have noticed a familiar face in Blackpool's starting XI as former Black Cats defender Reece James started for the Tangerines.

Interestingly, the 27-year-old started in midfield in a 4-3-3 system and broke forward on a couple of occasions before registering efforts at goal.

There was another tenuous Black Cats link in Blackpool’s side as Luke Garbutt started at left-back and wore the captain’s armband for the hosts.

Garbutt, 28, was a target for Sunderland last summer before making the switch to Bloomfield Road instead.

The former Everton man has made 43 appearances for the Tangerines since his move to the North West.

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