Sunderland trio earn plaudits as midfielder provides selection headache: Six things learned from win over Manchester City
Sunderland are just one win away from a Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley having reached the last four of the competition with a 2-0 win over Manchester City Under-21s.
Here’s what we learned from the victory at the Stadium of Light.
Duncan Watmore enjoys his best game since returning from injury.
The sheer elation - and relief - etched on the face of Watmore was a sight to behold when he tucked away a brilliant finish to hand Sunderland the lead against Manchester City’s Under-21s.
Out of the game for two years following successive ACL injuries, this was Watmore’s first goal for Sunderland since April 2016.
Watmore played an hour and this was best performance to date following his return from injury.
A constant menace, his movement and pace a problem for the Man City youngsters.
Dylan McGeouch shows what he brings to central midfield
Getting the right combination in the centre of midfield has been an issue all season for Sunderland, with so many options capable of playing there.
Cattermole, McGeouch, Power, Honeyman, Robson, O’Nien, Mumba etc etc.
McGeouch was unfortunate to be dropped for the trip to Scunthorpe United and he showed what he can bring to the first team in the Checkatrade Trophy win.
Setting the tone and pace in central midfield, always an option, looking to move the ball on quickly, he caught the eye.
Alim Ozturk wins deserved praise
The summer signing has been on the edge of the first team for much of the season given the form of Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin.
And with the arrival of Jimmy Dunne, he has moved further down the pecking order.
But he showed in the Checkatrade Trophy win what he can offer, a commanding performance at the heart of defence.
Read the game well, he made some big tackles and generally impressed. The pick of the defenders.
Luke O’Nien shows what he offers in midfield.
The former Wycombe Wanderers fan favourite has been deputising at right back in recent weeks following a calf injury to Adam Matthews, even keeping the full back out the team when he was back fit.
With Matthews handed a start against Manchester City’s youngsters, O’Nien was back in his more familiar midfield role and he starred.
O’Nien, often the furthest forward of the midfielders, was a constant threat and can count himself unlucky not to have scored.
A real talent and a firm fan favourite on Wearside. His display gives Ross much food for thought during the break.
Sunderland now just one win from Wembley.
The Checkatrade Trophy dream is alive and kicking.
Sunderland now just one win from a Wembley final. The competition is much-maligned but Jack Ross has taken it seriously and the Black Cats are now just a win away from a date in the capital.
Any trip to Wembley is special and Sunderland would no doubt take a sold-out away following, provided they can get past either Portsmouth, Bristol Rovers or Bury. The draw is Friday.
Welcome break now for Sunderland to crack on with January business.
The players have been afforded a few days off before they return to the Academy of Light for training on Monday.
For Ross, the players and his coaching staff the free weekend is a chance to take stock.
It also means full focus and energy can be put on bringing in the reinforcements Sunderland need to bolster their automatic promotion push.
Another striker, two if Josh Maja departs this month, needed along with another wide option. Ross also keen to add an option in central midfield.