Sunderland’s young players passed the physical and football test when they clinched their opening win in the Checkatrade Trophy.
After losing the opener at Rochdale on penalties, the Black Cats’ Under-23 side saw off local rivals Hartlepool United 1-0, Donald Love netting a 63rd-minute winner.
Sometimes it looked like we tried to score every time we had an attack instead of being more patientROBBIE STOCKDALE
It could have been a wider margin, with Josh Maja having two goals chalked off for offside, while the striker also failed to convert two other gilt-edged chances.
But first-team coach Robbie Stockdale, in charge of the side last night, was happy with the night’s work from a youthful side strengthened by over-age men Billy Jones and keeper Mika.
“It was a tough game against a good team,” said Stockdale.
“The next step for our players’ development is this competition and I thought that, for most of the game, they coped with that very well – they are still a bit naive at times, but we moved the ball well in possession, and we were brave out of possession and pressed high up the pitch.
“We probably just about deserved to win, but it was a tough game.
“I’ve seen the two we had disallowed and one in the first half was just offside – marginally – and the other he was on.
“If we had scored that early goal, it might have settled us down a little bit.
“Sometimes it looked like we tried to score every time we had an attack instead of being more patient.
“We made couple of tactical adjustments at half-time, pushed the full-backs on a bit more, and it worked because we got in behind a bit more through Billy [Jones] and Tommy Robson, and we got more bodies in the box when we got there.
“There were some real positives and it puts us in a decent place in the group.”
Stockdale also had praise for the way his side defended.
“The physical test is one thing, but there is also the tactical side of it,” he said. “They were playing against some seasoned professionals who I wouldn’t say know the dark arts, but who know the positions to give people problems.
“Our two centre-halves were playing against a veteran in Billy Paynter, and he will test them more than they would get in some academy games. They dealt with that quite well.”