Jack Diamond's position, Coventry selection calls and Sunderland's loan decisions after Hartlepool draw

The most important thing for Sunderland boss Alex Neil was to give players more game time as his side travelled to Hartlepool for their final pre-season friendly of the summer – but what did we learn from the match?

Neil made 11 changes to his team following the weekend’s 2-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley, while also changing his side’s formation.

Here are some takeaways from the 1-1 draw at the Suit Direct Stadium, after Elliot Embleton’s penalty drew the visitors level.

Three at the back remains an option

Danny Batth heads wide during Sunderland's pre-season match against Hartlepool.

While Neil has admitted a 4-2-3-1 formation is his favoured set-up, he has deployed a back three against Bradford and Hartlepool in pre-season.

The Black Cats boss said after the game against Pools that his side’s shape allowed him to pick the players who needed game time.

Still, it’s a system which Sunderland could switch back to against teams like Coventry, who consistently played with a back three last season.

Trai Hume stakes his claim

While you can probably name several players who look set to start for Sunderland against Coventry in their Championship opener (Anthony Patterson, Daniel Ballard, Dennis Cirkin, Corry Evans, Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard and Ross Stewart), there are still positions up for grabs.

One of those positions is on the right side of defence, where Trai Hume operated as a wing-back against Hartlepool.

The Northern Irishman has impressed in pre-season and was a prominent attacking threat as Pools defended in numbers.

Whether Sunderland line up with a back three or a back four against Coventry, it seems like Hume is competing with Lynden Gooch for a spot on the right side of defence.

Danny Batth is also in contention

Another position where it’s unclear who will start against Coventry is at centre-back.

New signing Daniel Ballard has impressed in friendly matches and looks like the side’s first-choice option, with Danny Batth, Bailey Wright, Aji Alese and even Carl Winchester (if Neil goes with a back three) seemingly competing to play alongside him.

Batth’s experience at Championship level could be important and, although Sunderland were on the front foot for most of the match against Pools, the 31-year-old produced a solid performance.

Jack Diamond needs more game time in his favoured role

Like against Bradford last week, Jack Diamond was deployed as a central striker as Ross Stewart was taken out of the side.

Diamond showed plenty of energy leading the line and won the penalty which Embleton dispatched. Still, the 22-year-old has made just one appearance on the flank, where he impressed while on loan at Harrogate in League Two last term, in pre-season.

With the likes of Alex Pritchard, Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts, Embleton and Leon Dajaku seemingly ahead of him in the attacking midfield spots, Sunderland must decide what is best for Diamond’s development.

Youngsters need to go out on loan

Sunderland also handed starts to goalkeeper Jacob Carney, 21, Ellis Taylor, 19, and Harrison Sohna, 20, at Hartlepool.

All three were regulars for the Black Cats’ under-23s side last season, and it now seems like a loan move would be best for their careers.

In Carney’s case, Sunderland will be looking to bring in another senior goalkeeper before sanctioning a move.