Elliott Dickman believes TWO Sunderland youngsters can become first-team regulars despite Southampton defeat

Sunderland U23s manager Elliott Dickman.
Sunderland U23s manager Elliott Dickman.
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Sunderland Under-23s manager Elliott Dickman believes the club should be encouraged by the young talent which is coming through.

The Black Cats lost their fourth game in a row in Premier League 2, Division 2, following a 2-0 defeat by Southampton at Eppleton CW, Hetton.

But Dickman is hopeful that some of his players can make the step up to the first team in the next few years, namely Bali Mumba, 17, and 16-year-old Daniel Neil.

"They're getting challenged, they're ahead of their own age in terms of their development and we want to challenge them," said Dickman after the game.

"It's a deliberate thing that they're in this environment, it's a deliberate thing they're with us and playing with us.

"Bali has been with the first team every day so it's even better for him but he does need a bit of game time which the first-team staff are aware of."

Mumba, who has featured for the senior side this campaign, played the full match in midfield against the Saints.

Meanwhile, Neil clocked up 77 minutes playing just behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

"They're two young lads who've got a bright future in the game," added Dickman.

"We're standing here now and are bitterly disappointed that we've lost the game 2-0, but it's about hopefully getting these two lads out of the other end and in a few years time, if not sooner, to be first-team players."

The Sunderland boss rued his side's poor start to the game, which saw them fall behind inside 57 seconds.

However, Dickman was pleased with how his players responded after half-time.

"Obviously conceding in the first minute wasn't great but I thought we showed a bit of character to come back, played some ok football at times," said Dickman.

"We probably didn't create too much in the first half but I don't think they did after they scored either.

"It was a game which was played very much in the middle of the pitch."

Southampton goalkeeper Jack Rose made a series of fine saves after the break, before Sunderland conceded a second goal from a corner.

"In the second half I thought we came out a little bit better and had some chances," added Dickman.

"Luke Molyneux has had a couple of good strikes, Jake Hackett has had a good strike.

"Their keeper has made a couple of good saves but then we gave a really poor goal away from a set-play."