Phil Smith's verdict: 'No-win' night ends up producing plenty of positives for Jack Ross and Sunderland

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Jack Ross said it was 'no-win' for Sunderland and everyone knew exactly what he meant.

This was a free hit for Newcastle United’s youngsters and all the pressure was on the Black Cats to produce an emphatic display.

Sunderland were comfortable 4-0 winners against Newcastle U21s

Sunderland were comfortable 4-0 winners against Newcastle U21s

In the end they did so and got through what could have been a very uncomfortable evening with relative ease.

It was not without its plus points, either.

Charlie Wyke got more valuable minutes under his belt and scored a good header that will serve as a timely confidence boost.

The striker’s attitude was excellent and he approached the occasion with real professionalism that will serve him well in the weeks ahead.

The second half also underlined that while Newcastle United’s youngsters have much promise, the Black Cats too have some real talent in their ranks.

Such has been Bali Mumba’s rise this season that it is easy to forget his youth.

Even Newcastle’s U21s had the advantage on him in age and physique but after a mixed first half, he grew into the second. He won the ball back well, made some fine turns and kept Sunderland ticking over.

Further forward, the arrival of Benji Kimpioka turned the game on its head and it was another promising Checkatrade cameo from the Swede that leaves Jack Ross with a decision to make this month.

Kimpioka is clearly in need of regular senior minutes.

He is immensely promising but still very raw, some poor touches and decisions in the final third.

Yet he is also very difficult to contain, his direct style a nightmare for defenders.

He is a tempting wildcard option to have on the bench.

Ross gave a number of fringe players the chance to stake their claim and in the second half at least they showed their abilities.

The opening 45 minutes had played out like a lot of League One games at the Stadium of Light this season.

The onus was on Sunderland to break the opposition down, who were happy to soak up pressure, picking their moments to try and commit bodies on the counter-attack.

The Black Cats tried to play with a high tempo but they struggled to test Nathan Harker in the main.

The likes of Jerome Sinclair and Chris Maguire struggled to make any serious headway, but the second half was a different story.

While Sinclair was unfortunate not to get a goal when he hit the post from close range, his showing after the break showed the qualities that he has. His pace and strength tested the young defence and helped get his side into more dangerous areas.

Maguire, meanwhile, delivered the cutting edge that was needed.

Sunderland have rarely threatened from set pieces this season but two good deliveries broke the game open and his effort from range to make it 3-0 was excellent.

That will have been valuable for Ross to get him back in the action and his cult hero credentials were done no harm, either.

After the game Ross was eager not to play up the victory too much.

He insisted beforehand that it was not a derby and he stuck to that line.

There was an obvious relief that his team had got through a novelty night in which they could never really win.

Yet the reality is that they are now just two games from Wembley, and their second half performance added some gloss to what turned out to be a very satisfying evening.