Sunderland Under-21 boss Andy Welsh has praised the progress made by promising young stopper Maksymilian Stryjek, writes Richard Mennear.
The Black Cats extended their lead at the top of the table to four points over Manchester United with a determined 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside on Monday.
Welsh’s side were made to work hard for the victory and were heavily reliant on 19-year-old goalkeeper Stryjek keeping them in the game.
A youth international with Poland, Stryjek has played a key role in the Black Cats’ rise to the top of the table and was recently rewarded with a three-year contract extension.
Against basement side Middlesbrough, he produced a commanding performance and made a stunning save with his left foot on the line to deny Boro’s Thomas McAloon.
“Max was solid, his kicking was good and he is developing really well,” said Welsh.
“He has had a good consistency with his handling and I thought he dealt with some dangerous crosses very well; punching, catching and he made some really good decisions.”
Welsh was also impressed with Under-18 wideman Denver Hume, who came off the bench for the injured Ethan Robson after just 15 minutes.
Robson went off with a suspected groin injury and Hume starred on the left wing.
Welsh added: “Denver Hume, that is the longest he has played at Under-21 level, but with Ethan injured after 15 minutes, it was important he got some development time.
“He was excellent on the ball. He still has a bit to do in terms of learning to be a little bit more aware of danger in and around the penalty box.
“But all in all, he was terrific on a difficult night.”
Sunderland won thanks to a Carl Lawson strike and Welsh praised his side for grinding out a result against.
Welsh added: “Against Middlesbrough, we had a really good shape and discipline and high intensity when we didn’t have the ball.
“The game is about a balance, it is not all short and not all long. It is the right decision at the right time, with the right pass.
“We were not fluent but still created a number of chances and Jeremain Lens and Mika Mandron almost scored.
“We held out and it is always important to do that, it is about winning.”