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Our Man At The Match - Thoughts & Reaction to SAFC U23s EFL Trophy Win Over Notts County Last Night

Robbie Stockdale's Sunderland U23s side successfully made it through to the knockout stages of the EFL Trophy with a win over League Two Notts County yesterday evening at the Stadium of Light, and one of the few in attendance was our man Micky Lough, who was suitably impressed with Vito Mannone in his first game since returning from injury.

Sunderland fielded a strong side in last night's 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy win over Notts County at the Stadium of Light.

Vitto Mannone made his return from injury whilst Jason Denayer, Sebastian Larsson and Donald Love also started for the under 23's.

Most importantly, all four got through the entire ninety minutes unscathed and will give first team manager David Moyes selection headaches ahead of the Hull City game in the Premier League next weekend.

Mannone made a solid return in the Sunderland goal, making a fine save to prevent County taking an early lead. He commanded his area reasonably well throughout and was a reassuring presence behind an inexperienced back line.

Sebastian Larsson was impressive in the middle of the park in a typically comitted display. He broke up attacks and started them well all night and looked much sharper than he did in his previous outing for Sunderland's second string - it was his attempted pull back which led to the winner.

Jason Denayer was the pick of the Sunderland first teamers early on, getting on the ball whenever possible and operating as a box to box midfielder. He faded in the second half but he should be relatively pleased with his display overall.

Donald Love played in central midfield once again and gave a decent account of himself - although he was occasionally wasteful, he showed evidence of a good range of passing.

The game of football as a whole wasn't much to write home about. Notts County started well and forced a succession of corners but the lads dealt with them easily enough and grew into the game. Rees Greenwood looked lively and curled wide early on. George Honeyman was also denied when County ‘keeper Scott Loach made a smart save at his feet.

Midway through the first half, Vito Mannone was forced in to an acrobatic stop to deny former Manchester United, Leeds and England man Alan Smith.

As the game entered the second half, County took the lead through another ex-Newcastle forward Adam Campbell. Sunderland failed to clear their lines from a corner and Campbell finished well.

As the half wore on it looked as though we were going out of the competition with a whimper. The lads looked devoid of ideas and their build up was very predictable - but, sub Josh Maja had other ideas.

He had looked lively ever since his introduction for Joel Asoro. He linked up well with fellow substitute Luke Molyneux before slotting home to draw Sunderland level.

This shifted the momentum in the game and Maja was unlucky to miss a one-on-one just before the ninety minute mark.

But Sunderland were not to be denied and after a well worked short corner, Sebastian Larsson's low cross struck Hayden Hollis and was turned into his own net - the lads then held out to secure progression to the next round.

Player Ratings

Vito Mannone - 7

A commanding display on his return - made a few smart saves, and controlled his area well.

Josh Robson - 6

Did okay. He looked anxious at times but overall coped well enough with County's attacks.

Michael Ledger - 5

Both centre halves looked shaky all night and struggled with the experience of the Notts County forward line.

George Brady - 5

See Ledger - both fulfilled their defensive duties just about well enough, but looked nervous on the ball.

Thomas Robson - 6

Looked a threat going forward but struggled physically and from a defensive point of view.

Donald Love - 6

Again looked decent in midfield, still lacks confidence at times but played some excellent passes.

Jason Denayer - 7

Started brilliantly but faded as the game wore on. Showed good work rate and was always showing for the ball, which is very important for a central midfield player.

George Honeyman - 6

Looked lively all night and curled wide in the first half.

Rees Greenwood - 6

Struggled to make an impact but never stopped trying.

Sebastian Larsson - 7

Good overall display, looked impressive going forward and defensively. Looked sharper.

Joel Asoro - 6

Frustrating night for him - never really threatened the County defence.

Josh Maja - 7

Held the ball up really well and showed composure to draw the lads level.

Luke Molyneux - 7

Looked lively and linked up well with Josh Maja for the goal.