THE CLAMOUR for Duncan Watmore’s inclusion in the first-team picture isn’t going to die down just because Dick Advocaat doesn’t think he’s ready.
Advocaat’s comments on the eve of last weekend’s win over Southampton that he is wary of throwing Watmore into the pressure-cooker of a relegation battle were surprising, given Sunderland surely need all the attacking options at their disposal to remain in the Premier League.
Goals are always the currency for a forward, whatever the level.
No, Watmore is not ready for a starting spot, but there would be worse punts than including the 21-year-old on the bench.
Watmore won’t go away though; a fifth goal in as many outings for the Under-21s proved the difference between Sunderland and Everton in front of Advocaat and his backroom team at Eppleton CW.
In fairness, Watmore has been more eye-catching this season, with the winger spurning a glorious chance just before the one that he slightly fortuitously converted for the match-winner.
But goals are always the currency for a forward, whatever the level.
You suspect though that Advocaat’s primary focus will have been on Wes Brown’s comeback, with the ex-England international completing 45 minutes after six weeks out with a knee injury.
Brown got through the first half with consumate ease and with fellow centre-half John O’Shea an injury doubt for this weekend’s visit to Everton, Advocaat will hope the 35-year-old can push his way back into first-team contention.
There was an injury blow for the U21s though, with skipper Liam Agnew limping off after a heavy challenge inside the opening 10 minutes and leaving the ground in a protective boot.
George Honeyman should then have opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Watmore collected Jordan Pickford’s punt forward and played in the midfielder down the right-hand side of the area.
Honeyman had time and space to pick his spot in the far bottom corner, but arrowed his shot across goal a couple of yards wide.
The same fate befel Mikael Mandron just before the half-hour when Brown picked him out with a raking ball over the top and the striker just managed it to bring it under control.
However, with only Everton stopper Russell Griffiths to beat - albeit from a narrow angle - Mandron powered a shot into the side netting.
Sunderland needed an excellent save from Pickford to preserve parity on the stroke of half-time when Everton striker Callum Dyson - who had been marshalled effortlessly by Brown during most of the first half - met Jon Joe Kenny’s right wing cross with a powerful half-volley that the Black Cats stopper kept out with his legs.
There was yet another awful miss from Sunderland on the hour mark when Mandron’s left wing low cross went all the way through to Watmore at the far post.
Watmore checked inside, but then ballooned his shot high and wide of the target. But he made amends in the 63rd minute.
Watmore surged to the edge of the area and scuffed a low shot which trickled along the ground and past the despairing dive of Griffiths.
Mandron almost added a second in the final 10 minutes, but his left-foot shot bobbled off the surface and was pushed away low to his left by Griffiths.
SUNDERLAND: Pickford, J Robson, Beadling, Brown (Casey 46), T Robson, Agnew (Greenwood 9), Smith, Gooch, Honeyman, Watmore (Blinco 90), Mandron. Subs not used: Burke, Nelson. Booked: Smith (12), Beadling (42), Greenwood (90)
EVERTON: Griffiths, Kenny, Robinson, Ledson, Browning, Galloway, Jones, Williams, Dyson, Charsley, Byrne (Green 39). Subs not used: Hunt, Langton, Connolly, Bainbridge. Booked: Ledson (54)