Kevin Ball

We were excellent - Ball

by Stuart Vose

U21 coach reviews win over Villa.

Kevin Ball was left delighted after his under-21s continued their excellent recent form with a home win over Aston Villa.

Connor Wickham scored both goals in a 2-0 victory as the Black Cats moved level with the Midlands club in the Barclays U21 Premier League table.

“The performance was excellent – we played some great attacking football and should have had more than two goals,” Ball said.

“We did very well in the first half but the game against Newcastle earlier in the week took more out of the players than I thought so we laboured a little after half time.

“I thought Jordan Pickford was outstanding in goal again and the back four defended very stoutly.

“You could pick bits from everyone’s performance. It was nice to see Connor get his two goals, too.”

Wickham was handed a run-out to build match fitness and responded in style with a pair of well-taken strikes.

He caused havoc throughout, opening the scoring early on before doubling the advantage just before the break.

“Because of Connor’s history and size you tend to forget he’s only 19,” Ball said.

“He gave us a presence up front and good luck to him with his two goals. He could have had a hat-trick.”

The win was the under-21s second this week after they beat local rivals Newcastle 4-0 in a friendly on Monday.

It’s now two wins out of two in the league for Ball’s side, but the former Sunderland captain is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

“The only thing I’m interested in is seeing how the lads play – how they improve as individuals and collectively,” he explained.

“I have always taken one game at a time but I’m pleased because the lads are putting a lot of effort in at the moment.”