Sunderland coach provides trialist update and reacts to goalless draw at Middlesbrough

Sunderland Under-23s manager Elliott Dickman was pleased with his side's performance away at Middlesbrough.
Sunderland Under-23s manager Elliott Dickman was pleased with his side's performance away at Middlesbrough.
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Sunderland Under-23s boss Elliott Dickman hopes the use of different systems will help prepare his players for the rigours of first-team football

The young Black Cats lined-up in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation during Sunday's goalless draw at Middlesbrough, an alteration from the 4-3-3 set-up they have deployed in recent weeks.

Sunderland equated themselves well at the Riverside Stadium, keeping possession admirably and creating chances in an encouraging first half.

Yet it was Boro who finished the match the stronger, after the young Black Cats changed their shape midway through the second half.

"I was pleased, especially first half, up until the hour point I thought we played well, we had some good chances and quality in possession," said Dickman.

"We decided to make a change in terms of shape at the beginning of the game which was positive.

"On the hour mark we decided to go back to what we know best which is the 4-3-3 and it nearly backfired on us."

Against Boro, Benji Kimpioka, who has played as a lone striker for most of the campaign, operated in a front two alongside Lee Connelly, while Bali Mumba was deployed at the tip of a midfield diamond.

It's not the first time Dickman has modified his formation this season, and the alterations in set-up have brought varying degrees off success.

Yet the Sunderland coach believes the changes will benefit his players in the long run.

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"For them to learn and understand we've tried various systems over the season," added Dickman. "We've tried three at the back, we've tried a 4-3-3 we've tried a 3-4-3.

"We've got quite a few central midfield players back fully fit now, young Jack Diamond is out on loan at Spennymoor so I just thought it would be an opportunity to play all of our midfield players and see how they did in that shape

"For a good hour I was quite pleased but I just thought one or two legs blew up a in the middle of the pitch so that's why we made the changes we did."

Dickman also confirmed that the three trialists, midfielder Ruben Sammut, forward Andrea Borg and defender Kevin Berkoe, who played for the young Black Cats last month won't feature in the final two games of the season.

However, he didn't rule out any future moves for the trio.

"At the minute we're not in a position to say what we are doing with any of those lads," said Dickman.

"We are looking to improve the squad, what we've got now is what we'll have for the rest of the season and hopefully it'll be enough going into the last two games."