Coach praises U21s following victory at Leicester.
Sunderland’s development squad coach, Kevin Ball, described the young Black Cats’ performance in their 3-2 victory over Leicester City as outstanding as his side maintained their 100% start to the new campaign.
Billy Knott, Jordan Laidler and Mikael Mandron scored the goals for the development squad as Ball watched the side win their second game in a week.
And Ball, who played 388 first team games for Sunderland, was delighted with the way the under-21 side performed having trailed 2-1 going into the final five minutes of the game.
“The term to use after that performance is resilience,” Ball said. “You look to see how the lads react when we score; their heads are up and they love it and you think 'fair play to them'.
“First-half we were outstanding, I thought they really enjoyed the game and Leicester changed their game to accommodate the way we were playing which was a compliment to ourselves as well.
“We went into the second half thinking 'that was a decent team talk' and then within five minutes we were 2-1 down.
“We got a goal back from a deserved penalty and at 2-2 our tails went up and you could see the lads celebrating. It was absolutely fabulous because right at the death we went and scored a winner.”
Despite being delighted with the team’s overall performance, Ball was sure to single out both Mandron and Liam Agnew who shone at the King Power Stadium.
“There were some really good individual performances tonight as well,” he continued.
“It was Mika’s first game for us this season and he put a real good shift in and fair play to him for getting his goal.
“Liam Agnew in the middle of the park did very well and lots of other lads had really, really good games.”
Monday’s game at the home of Leicester City was the first of four stadium matches the young Black Cats will play with trips to Anfield, Etihad Stadium and Villa Park to come.
And Ball believes the experience of playing in front of a crowd and in the big stadiums is further benefit to the players’ development.
“I think if you were to analyse the game overall; one it was played in the right competitive spirit, two there was a lot of good football played and three it was played at a stadium which I think always helps.
“There was a decent crowd and the lads loved it.
“Football isn’t an easy game and I said to them afterwards that to be at their best and to keep improving you have to work ridiculously hard and next time they pull the strip on again, whether it would be for training or for playing, they have got to try and surpass their best.
“It was good to pit our wits against players that have played league football and have experience, so from that point of view it was a big test for the players and it’s a credit to them.”