Sunderland coach reacts as Under-23s reach Durham Challenge Cup quarter finals - and a clash with Hartlepool United
Sunderland Under-23s coach Elliott Dickman praised his players after they saw off Northern League Division Two side Willington to reach the last eight of the Durham Challenge Cup.
On a heavy pitch at Hall Lane, the Black Cats youngsters took a three-goal lead into half-time thanks to a brace from midfielder Jake Hackett and a goal from striker Connor Slack.
Willington substitute Ryan Cummings reduced the arrears within seconds on his introduction into the game on 66 minutes – but Dickman’s side ran out comfortable winners thanks to Slack’s second goal of the night and a late strike from Nathan Greenwood.
That win could have been even more comfortable had it not been for a man of the match performance from Willington goalkeeper Carl Robinson as he produced a number of impressive saves to deny both Slack and Hackett claiming a hat-trick.
After the game Dickman praised his side’s attitude as they came through “a different type of challenge”.
He told the Echo: “We told the players that the game would be a good test of their character and they came through it really well.
“The pitch isn’t ideal to get the ball down and play, so we had to adapt our style a little bit to get the ball forwards a little bit quicker.
“These games are different games for us, and they present the players with a different type of challenge.
“Coming to Willington, we knew it was going to be difficult and it’s something different for the players to handle.
“We go to some really nice players in academy football, we visit some good venues and play on some perfect pitches.
“But places like Willington, this is what football is really made of and we had to come through a good test of our character.
“Every single player showed the right attitude and we are really pleased with them.”
The win at Hall Lane was enough to send Dickman’s side through to the quarter-final of a competition that has not been won by a Sunderland side since the likes of Jack Colback and Martyn Waghorn appeared in a 2-0 win against Gateshead in the 2008 final.
Dickman’s side will entertain Hartlepool United in the last eight and the Black Cats coach insisted the club want to lift some silverware in the competition.
“The fact that we enter the competition, and we have done for the last three years, tells you that we want to play in it.
“We see it as a different test for our players.
“That is the main reason why we enter it and of course, now that we are in it, we want to win it.”
Durham Challenge Cup Quarter-Final draw
Seaham Red Star v Consett
South Shields v Stockton Town
Spennymoor Town v West Auckland Town
Sunderland v Hartlepool United