Sunderland's fringe players have the chance to impress manager Simon Grayson tonight when the Under-23s take on Doncaster Rovers in the Checkatrade Trophy.
While the side may contain a number of first-team players - the likes of Jack Rodwell, Brendan Galloway and even Duncan Watmore could feature - it is also an opportunity for youngsters to force their way into the picture.
Here, we look at three players who could use a low-key competition to propel their way into Grayson’s Championship plans.
Robson should have the confidence to dominate midfield tonight after making strides into Grayson’s first team this season. The Black Cats’ youth product made his senior debut in the League Cup defeat to Everton, and has been a rare bright spark amid the gloom at the Stadium of Light. The left-footed playmaker will also fancy getting amongst the goals tonight, having scored for Sunderland U23s against Chelsea and Manchester City last month. With the Black Cats struggling for goals and creativity, what price Robson pressing his claim
tonight for a place in Grayson’s Championship starting XI?
Having drifted away from the first team recently, Greenwood will be keen to reassert his potential in the Checkatrade Trophy. The winger’s trickery and pace has made him a big hit with many regular watchers of Sunderland’s U23’s side and he was a shining light in the side that finished runners-up in Premier League 2 last season. Last time out in this competition – at Scunthorpe - 20-year- old Greenwood showed he can also finish chances as well as create them, with a goal to get the Black Cats back into the game.
Molyneux will no doubt go into tonight’s game full of confidence having already caught the eye of Simon Grayson this year – who handed the 19-year- old his senior debut against
Everton. Molyneux has been a key player for the Black Cats in the Premier League 2 and his creativity has proved invaluable – something the first team currently lack. The Bishop Auckland-born winger will keen to build on his league form in the Checkatrade Trophy against stronger opposition.