Sunderland 2-0 Notts County
Sunderland marched into the last 16 of the Checkatrade Trophy courtesy of a 2-0 win over Notts County on Tuesday evening.
Duncan Watmore made his long-awaited comeback under the Wearside lights, and the 24-year-old played a key part in the opening goal, with the ball deflecting off a helpless Dan Jones and into the net.
The forward’s return came to an end on 67 minutes, but his replacement, Benji Kimpioka, picked up the mantle and won a penalty five minutes after his introduction.
Jerome Sinclair stepped up to convert the resulting spot kick, and that was that.
Watmore provided the headlines ahead of the kick-off, with the forward featuring in the starting XI for the first time since October 2017.
Jack Ross made eight changes in total, with youngsters Jack Bainbridge and Bali Mumba also coming into the side as Dylan McGeouch made his return from injury.
Notts County applied relative pressure early on, with Rob Milson bending a free-kick over a crowded penalty area and inches wide of the post.
The Lads replied with their first real opening on eight minutes, as incisive play from Watmore found Mumba at the back post, but the 17-year-old fired straight at Fitzsimons.
Max Power showed he was in the mood in the stages that followed, with the midfielder peppering the Magpies’ backline with several attempts of note.
After seeing his initial effort charged down, Power fizzed a half-volley straight at the ‘keeper before sending a curling effort a fraction wide.
The pressure finally told on 21 minutes, as Watmore turned and raced through on goal, and although his effort was saved, it cannoned off Jones and into the net.
Sunderland remained in control to lead at the break, but Robbin Ruiter was forced into a fine save to push Kristian Dennis’ header to safety.
After a low profile start to the second period, Watmore burst into life on 58 minutes and was denied a comeback goal, as Fitzsimons produced a brilliant low save.
Both sides made changes following the hour mark, with former Black Cat Jon Stead entering the fray before Benji Kimpioka’s introduction saw Watmore’s depart to a standing ovation.
And it was quite an introduction from the young Swede, who combined blistering take-ons with outrageous nutmegs before winning a penalty.
Sinclair stepped up and made no mistake, sending the ‘keeper the wrong way.
The forward almost grabbed his second on 84 minutes, breezing past his man before stinging the palms of Fitzsimons.
But it ended 2-0, as the Lads marched into the last 16.
Bainbridge, Loovens, Ozturk, Oviedo, McGeouch, Power (Hackett 83), Mumba, O’Nien,
Watmore (Kimpioka 67), Sinclair (Diamond 87).
Substitutes: Patterson, Flanagan, Hunter, Maja.