Development squad coach pleased with progress after narrow defeat in Salford.Sunderland’s development squad coach, Kevin Ball, says Monday evening’s narrow 1-0 defeat at Manchester United shows how far his young side have come this campaign.
The young Black Cats, who lie third in the Barclays U21 Premier League, went down to a Jesse Lingard strike just before half-time in a game they could well have got something from with both Jordan Laidler and Adam Mitchell going close to equalising.
And Ball believe the way the Red Devils went about their business at the AJ Bell Stadium shows the respect and growing reputation Sunderland are getting at youth level.
“I think we did really well,” Ball said. “When we travel down to these games the expectations are quite high because we’ve shown what we can do.
“United were well up for it and the face they had called one back from a youth loan (Tyler Blackett from Birmingham City) and had a few who have been around the Championship (Lingard and Michael Keane) shows that they knew they had a game on their hands.
“The way they got at us from the off and the way they pressed the ball when we played out from the back was a back-handed compliment in that they’d obviously done their homework.
“We showed good resilience to stay in the game; the only downside for us was that we conceded just before half-time and, as a coach, that’s the worst time because it robs you of that chance to build on what you have done in the first-half.”
Ball praised defenders John Egan and Scott Harrison as the pair turned out arguably their best performances of the campaign with the former making only his fifth Barclays U21 Premier League appearance of the campaign.
“I thought Scott and John were both resilient,” he added. “Scott’s passing and his diagonal balls from the back were both excellent.
“I was pleased with John and he’s got to be pleased with himself because he did well, especially when you consider his long-term layoff and the little niggles he’s had recently as well.
“Our only defensive issue was that we’d like to see the back four move up more and become a bit more compact, quickly.
“We can never fault our players for effort, though, and it’s just disappointing result-wise but there was lots we can build on ahead of the game at Norwich.”
The young Black Cats face a two-week wait before their trip to Carrow Road to face the Canaries and Ball says the players will be allowed to enjoy the Capital One Cup final experience before returning to training on Monday ahead of a big push for the top four in the final third of the campaign.
“I’m a firm believer in letting the lads enjoy the experience [of the Capital One Cup final],” Ball continued.
“But Monday, it will be back to hard work and preparing well for the Norwich game.”