The Checkatrade Trophy has done little to spark the interest of Sunderland supporters since its revamp last season.
There was a smattering of away fans at Glanford Park in a crowd of just 1,127 for the opening group game between Sunderland’s Under-21s and the League One hosts.
Scunthorpe made nine changes, which gives an indication of how they are approaching the competition while Sunderland named four senior pros in their side.
Jack Rodwell, Adam Matthews, Lynden Gooch and Donald Love started.
The competition sparked controversy last season with the revamp and the invitations handed out to those select Premier League and Championship sides with academy one status.
Attendance levels were also low across the competition and it shows no signs of being any better this time round.
In truth, with deadline day now just 24-hours away, all attention at the moment is on who Sunderland boss Simon Grayson will be bringing in to bolster his options.
Grayson was watching on from the stands, with first team coach Robbie Stockdale taking charge of proceedings from the dugout.
And the Sunderland boss won’t have been overly impressed with the performance served up by the Black Cats against Football League opposition.
There were some positives, Gooch caught the eye with his work rate up front and eagerness to make something happen while Rees Greenwood scored a stunning goal midway through the second half.
But Rodwell failed to impress in the holding midfield role, doing the simple things well enough but not doing enough to make an impact on proceedings.
Matthews started in central defence and he and Love didn’t do much to convince Grayson they will have a big part to play for the first team this season.
In the end Sunderland were well beaten by Scunthorpe, the hosts scoring at the start and end of the first half before adding a third late on. They also missed a glut of chances to extend the lead further.
Gooch worked hard up front but Sunderland were too predictable in their build-up, long balls to the lone forward when he was being marked by two huge centre-backs.
It was a nightmare start for Sunderland’s young charges, with the hosts taking the lead after just three minutes.
Hakeeb Adelakun’s long-range effort was palmed upwards by James Talbot but Kevin van Veen was was on hand to head home virtually on the line.
Gooch’s attempts to force a quick equaliser were thwarted by Rory Watson’s low block, with Talbot called into again to make a stop with his legs to deny the dangerous Adelakun.
There was a lengthy stoppage 17 minutes in following a clash of heads between Ethan Robson and Devonte Redmond on the half-way line.
Robson was eventually subbed with Owen Gamble on in his place 25 minutes in.
Van Veen continued to be a constant thorn in the side of the Sunderland defence, his effort deflected just wide of the right-hand post ten minutes before the break.
Up the other end, Greenwood weaved past two Iron defenders before seeing his effort blocked by Watson as Sunderland attempted to fight their way back into the game.
Talbot ended the half strongly, producing a brilliant block to deny Jordan Clarke’s volley at the back post.
But the Dublin-born stopper could do little about Scunthorpe’s second four minutes into added-on time, Duane Holmes controlled well before firing low into the corner from 10-yards.
Scunthorpe started the second half where they left off the first, with Van Veen almost adding a third.
The Iron striker latched onto defensive uncertainty, rounded Talbot but hit the crossbar with the goal unguarded.
Sunderland’s midfield was non-existent as Adelakun waltzed through before blazing over, Beadling barking at his Sunderland teammates for more cover.
The groundsman had to dash into action in the 58th minute when the sprinklers came on in the Scunthorpe half. A brief highlight.
Then from nowhere, Sunderland cut the deficit thanks to a sweetly-struck shot via the left boot of Greenwood in the 65th minute, the ball sailing over Watson to make it 2-1.
Scunthorpe reacted strongly, with Beadling twice having to make timely interceptions to prevent the Iron attack from extending their lead.
Gamble had to have his wits about him to head clear a goal-bound effort on the line in the 77th minute while Tom Hopper headed over when it seemed easier to score from eight-yards.
It was all Scunthorpe towards the end and sub Josh Morris added a third from close range in the 89th minute.
Stockdale was putting a brave face on it but Sunderland didn’t deserve anything from the opening group game.