Why Sunderland first-teamers Pierre Ekwah, Isaac Lihadji and Abdoullah Ba played for U21s side against Stoke
Sunderland Under-21s boss Graeme Murty praised the attitudes of several first-team players who impressed during the side’s 4-1 win over Stoke.
January signings Joe Anderson, Pierre Ekwah and Isaac Lihadji all started for the young Black Cats, along with summer arrivals Abdoullah Ba and Jewison Bennette.
A Harry Gardiner brace, Ellis Taylor finish and late own goal gave Sunderland a convincing victory in the Premier League 2, Division 2, fixture at Eppleton CW, Stoke substitute Jacob Holland-Wilkinson scoring a consolation goal in stoppage-time.
“I think that we were convincing in the way we approached the game,” Murty told the Echo after the match. “I think the first-team players in particular were respectful of the game, respectful of the group they dropped into and made sure they pushed on and did things properly.
“I thought that approach and that application lended itself to the situation and made sure we dealt with the football really well.
“We did all the horrible stuff really well with our pressing and our workrate, and then that let their talent shine and there is some talent in that group.”
Sunderland head coach Tony Mowbray was in attendance and will be weighing up a few selection dilemmas ahead of Sunday’s fixture at Norwich.
“We just make sure we talk to the first-team staff, liaise with them really, really closely and make sure we're available if they need a platform for the players to play,” Murty added.
“It’s a really useful platform, but it’s only useful if they approach it properly so that they can get something out of the game.
“They have got to showcase themself in front of the owner, in front of the technical director, in front of the first-team manager. They have got to make sure when people get their eyes on them they are standing out and showing themself in a really good light and I thought they did that.
“They needed game time so we need to make sure we facilitate that and also it shows our young players what the standard looks like.
“It’s great to see 15-year-old Chris Rigg play with first-team players because that’s where he wants to go and where we want to project him. We have to make sure this is as rich and as valuable a learning experience as we can make it.”