Match report: Lads open schedule at Darlington

Darlington 1-0 Sunderland

Sunderland’s pre-season schedule is up and running.

Jack Ross’ side stepped up their 2018-19 Sky Bet League One preparations on Tuesday evening, taking on Darlington at Blackwell Meadows.

Jordan Nicholson scored the only goal of the encounter with nine minutes played, as Tom Flanagan and Adam Matthews completed 90 minutes.

Donald Love played 60 minutes after Alim Ozturk was forced off during the opening period, with a number of others, including Reece James and Chris Maguire, playing past the hour mark.

The Lads will continue their preparations at Hartlepool United on Saturday (KO 3pm).


Ross’ first Sunderland XI saw a number of new faces line up in red and white for the first time. James, Flanagan, Ozturk and Maguire all made their debuts, while trialist, and former Blackburn Rovers and Port Vale striker, Anton Forrester led the line. Robbin Ruiter was handed the gloves as Jon McLaughlin missed out, with 16-year-old Bali Mumba given the chance to impress.


Darlo made a bright start to proceedings but James was quick to showcase his defensive attributes to keep them at bay. The former Wigan Athletic man went head to head with Luke Trotman in the opening 60 seconds, and he passed his next challenge with similar finesse as Josef Wheatley threatened to break through. With nine minutes played, Darlo came down the opposite flank and enjoyed far more success, as Nicholson moved into the box and dispatched a cool finish into the corner.


Sunderland’s first real chance fell to Ozturk and the defender was incredibly unlucky not to grab a debut goal. After the ball dropped in the box, the defender swivelled on a six-pence before curling an effort towards the top corner where Trotman produced an impressive goalline clearance. But with 31 minutes played, the defender’s game was over, as he limped off the pitch and straight down the tunnel. Lee Cattermole almost grabbed an equaliser just before the half-time whistle, but the midfielder’s header struck the woodwork.


Ross’ men started the second period on the front foot and they almost levelled on 50 minutes. Powerful play from Forrester won the ball in the final third and he did well to feed Matthews, but after connecting with the Welshman’s cross, Mumba saw his effort blocked en route to goal. Seconds later, Flanagan took his eye off the ball and almost gifted the home side a second, but Reece Styche’s dinked effort struck the inside of the post and bounced kindly into the path of Ruiter.


As expected, the hour mark yielded a number of changes as Ross shuffled his pack. Max Stryjek, Denver Hume, Dylan McGeouch, George Honeyman, Callum McManaman, Josh Maja, Lynden Gooch and Andrew Nelson entered the fray, with Flanagan, Love and Adam Matthews the only three players remaining from the opening period. As time ticked on, the Lads began to assert their dominance and Maja went close on numerous occasions, flashing a shot wide before smashing his second attempt off the crossbar. Stryjek was forced into a superb save to deny Harvey Saunders as Darlo remained a threat on the break, but it remained 1-0.

Darlington: Maddison, Trotman, O’Hanlon, Hughes (Glover 62), Burn (Thompson 54), Galbraith, Nicholson (Collins 54), Wheatley, Styche (Henshall 67), Ainge, Saunders.
Subs not used:
Bancroft, Vaulks, Parnaby, Morrison, Dunn, Abrol, Banks.

Sunderland: Ruiter (Stryjek 60), Matthews, James (Hume 60), Flanagan, Ozturk (Love 31), Cattermole (Honeyman 60), Robson (McGeouch 60), Mumba (McManaman 60), Molyneux (Gooch 60), Maguire (Nelson 60), Forrester (Maja 60).
Subs not used:
Taylor, Asoro.  

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