Sunderland’s second string return to cup action tomorrow night when they host Colchester United in the last 16 of the Premier League Cup.
Elliott Dickman’s side are without a win in seven games in Premier League 2, but they have enjoyed a far more successful season in the cup competitions.
The Black Cats advanced to the knockout stages as Group B winners after just one defeat in six matches.
Friday night opponents Colchester progressed as runners-up in Group C, knocking out both Manchester City and Derby County.
Under-23 coach Dickman, who is expecting a difficult game, said: “We have done well in the cup competitions and I have been pleased with the recent performances against Athletic Bilbao and Blackburn.
“It is a building process. The play we try and implement the players know because they have come up through the academy but it is trying to give them the confidence to do it in games.
“As each game goes by there are spells where you can see things coming off but we also need to be better when we don’t have the ball.
“Colchester managed to get through a tough group with Manchester City, Derby and Hull City so fair play to them.
“It will be a tough task for us.”
The Premier League Cup game takes place at Eppleton Colliery Welfare, in Hetton, (7pm KO).
Entry to the game is priced at £3 for adults and just £1 for over 65s and under 16s. Sunderland AFC season card holders do not gain free entry to cup fixtures.