A potential transfer hint and a telling shout: The moments you might have missed from Sunderland 2-0 Port Vale

Thousands of Sunderland fans will have watched the draw against Hull City via live streams – but there are those few moments that the cameras don’t capture.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 4:45 pm

We take a look at some of the moments you might have missed from the Papa John’s Trophy victory – from a telling shout to a potential transfer hint:

THE MIDFIELD WARM-UP

Sunderland’s pre-match preparations have undergone some marked change since the arrival of Lee Johnson.

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The moments you may have missed from Sunderland's win over Port Vale

While the premise remains the same – some conditioning work, followed by a possession drill and then position-specific work – the content of each section has been tweaked and built upon during his reign.

And it continues to evolve too, with a subtle yet interesting change to the pre-Port Vale warm-up.

It concerned the midfielders and their work with Jamie McAllister. Typically under Johnson, the midfield trio have done some short, sharp passing drills with the assistant head coach – finalising patterns of play and movement before then joining in with the shooting practice.

But prior to the win over Port Vale, attacking midfielders Lynden Gooch, Elliot Embleton and Chris Maguire joined Dan Neil and Josh Scowen in this part of the warm-up.

It was an interesting change, particularly given how effectively all five combined at times in the first half, and perhaps hinted that Johnson was keen to see the quintet interlink more often during the game.

MIXING-UP THE SET PLAYS

Sunderland didn’t make enough of their set-pieces against Port Vale, that much is clear.

The Black Cats had 17 corners during the contest but failed to make them count.

But it was refreshing to see that at least a degree of inventiveness was being applied to taking corners.

Rather than sticking every corner straight into the penalty area, Sunderland mixed things up – taking some quickly, and other short.

Indeed, it was a short corner that yielded one of the host’s better chances on the night as Embleton and Max Power swapped passes before the former saw his drilled cross flicked onto the bar by Gooch.

Improvements are still needed on the set piece front, that much is clear, but this variety is welcome.

A TELLING EARLY SHOUT

‘We need to be higher!’

There was barely a minute on the clock when Johnson strode to the edge of his technical area and urged his side higher up the field.

The Sunderland head coach was taking advantage of a stoppage in play after an injury to Vale’s Alex Hurst and – despite it still being the very early stages of the game – was keen to see his side push higher and take the game to their opponents.

And they certainly did that, during a first-half which offered plenty of encouragement in an attacking sense.

Johnson wants to see his side get on the front foot, and shouts such as these are telling as to the expectations he has placed on the side to perform from the get-go.

Such high standards are definitely going to be needed if the Black Cats are to mount a surge towards the top two.

A DIFFERENT HALF-TIME CHANGE

Grant Leadbitter’s introduction in place of Dan Neil wasn’t the only change made by Sunderland at half-time.

One was far less obvious – as Chris Maguire opted to change his boots after a first half in which he had failed to have a major impact on the game.

The Scot fashioned one great chance after taking down a deep Aiden O’Brien cross before seeing his shot tipped wide.

But that was the only real impact he had on the game, with the change of boots at half-time failing to really spark the Sunderland man into life.

We know the kind of magic Maguire can deliver, and he could undoubtedly be a key player between now and the end of the campaign – so here's hoping his best form is recaptured soon.

A POTENTIAL TRANSFER HINT?

George Dobson was back in the squad for this cup tie – but failed to make it onto the pitch.

The midfielder has started just once since Johnson’s arrival on Wearside and was an unused substitute against Vale, leading to many to question whether the former Walsall man could be allowed to leave this month.

Dobson has undoubtedly fallen down the pecking order under Johnson and the arrival of Carl Winchester presents a further rival for a place in the starting line-up.

So were Sunderland keen to free-up some room under the squad and salary caps, then Dobson could be a natural contender to depart.

THE RETURNING YOUNGSTER

While the likes of Neil and Embleton may have stolen the spotlight, the return of Oliver Younger as a second half substitute was another highlight from the evening.

The under-23 defender had impressed at Fleetwood Town in the final group stage game before picking up a hamstring injury – but picked up where he left off against Port Vale.

And within seconds of his introduction, the youngster was already barking out instructions to more senior professionals and making his presence felt on the field.

Such leadership abilities are often a rare commodity among inexperienced players, but Younger was one of the more vocal players in the final stages of the game.

It’s a strong endorsement of Younger’s ability that he appears to have leap-frogged Brandon Taylor in the defensive pecking order and it would be no surprise to see him receive further opportunities in the senior side in the coming months.

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