Sunderland Under-23s inspired by progression of George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch, says coach Elliott Dickman

Ethan Robson puts Sunderland U23s ahead against Athletic Bilbao. Picture by Frank Reid
Ethan Robson puts Sunderland U23s ahead against Athletic Bilbao. Picture by Frank Reid
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Elliott Dickman said the experiences of George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch provide a great incentive for his Under-23 group.

The pair, who have made their first-team breakthroughs this season, are currently with the senior squad in New York as David Moyes looks to build team spirit.

Those in action at the Stadium of Light last night secured a hugely impressive 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao’s B side, moving into the semi-finals of the Premier League International Cup.

To do so without the presence of Honeyman and Gooch was a source of extra pride for the new U23 boss. Dickman said: “We had some young lads out there – (Elliot) Embleton and (Joel) Asoro are still 17, so I’m pleased for them.

“George and Lynden add huge quality to the group, they’ve been in and around the first team – the fact that they’ve been there tells you they’re good players, so they’d have added something to the group.

“The lads who were out there, every one put a real good shift in and at times played some nice stuff. Some of them have been around the first team – Elliot and Joel, Ethan and Tommy Robson, Michael Ledger – so they’ve been around the first team, whether on the bench or in training, so they’ve done great.

“The manager’s great with that, getting them across to train. That experience will really benefit us as a group.”

The Black Cats came under a fair amount of pressure in the first half as Bilbao looked the more composed of the two sides, but Ethan Robson and Elliot Embleton scored fine goals to settle the nerves.

By the end it could have been three or four as the visitors, down to 10 men, struggled to live with Sunderland’s pace on the counter-attack. Dickman hailed the endeavour of his team to come through that difficult opening.

He said: “Really pleased to get through to the next round.

“I thought, at the start, we were very frantic, a bit nervy, some of our play wasn’t great, not a lot of composure in possession. But we settled down and played some nice stuff. Second half, when they had the man sent off, it became a little bit easier, but I thought the lads were terrific.”

The remaining quarter-finals see Manchester United hosting Porto (February 22), Norwich meeting Dinamo Zagreb (February 27) and Swansea up against Hertha Berlin (February 28).