Five things we learned: Talking points from our pre-season opener

Sunderland kicked off their 2019-20 pre-season campaign last night with a short visit to Mariners Park to face Northern Premier League side South Shields.

The Lads won the game 2-0 thanks to goals from Ethan Robson and Luke O’Nien – a result that sets them up nicely for next week’s trip to Portugal.

Here are five talking points from the game:

FOOTBALL IS BACK!

Yes, it was actually only six and a half weeks since Sunderland last played a game, but it felt like a lifetime.

Last night, we were finally able to see the Lads back in action and it felt great to know that football will be at the forefront of our minds until May 2020.

YOUNG STARS

Sunderland played a mixture of youth and experience on Thursday as they gave game-time to some under-23 players and first-team faces.

Jack Bainbridge, Benji Kimipioka, Ethan Robson, Jake Hackett, Elliot Embleton, Jordan Hunter and Anthony Patterson all featured and largely impressed.

If those lads can continue to play this well, then they will give Jack Ross a selection headache heading into the first game of the season against Oxford United.

ETHAN ROBSON

Arguably the best player on the pitch last night, Ethan Robson put himself right in the forefront of Sunderland fans minds as he reminded everyone why he is such a highly-rated prospect.

His tenacity, passing range and decision making was evident throughout his performance and he was deserving of his goal.

The goal itself was a symbol of everything good about Robson as he pressed and tackled the South Shields midfielder before following his run and finishing superbly into the top corner from just inside the penalty area. 

DEBUTANTS

Lee Burge and Conor McLaughlin both made their first appearances last night after signing for the club earlier this month.

Burge started the game and was sharp throughout – making some key saves and commanding his area well.

McLaughlin started the game in his natural position of right back and impressed as he continued to get down the flanks and support attacks. 

Both players should be delighted with their first games in red and white. 

SOUTH SHIELDS

The hosts did themselves proud last night with a strong performance and that was a clear indication that they should once again be in the hunt for promotion.

Last season, South Shields cruelly missed out on promotion after losing the Play-Off Final, but they looked sharp and gave the Black Cats a real battle.

And, while a 2-0 defeat is not the ideal result, Lee Picton and Graham Fenton can be happy with what they saw from their squad.  

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