Sunderland fielded three fringe first team players in last night’s Checkatrade Trophy tie at Doncaster Rovers. Donald Love, Brendan Galloway and Jack Rodwell earned starts for Robbie Stockdale’s side, whilst forgotten man Mika Domingues lined up in goal.
The game was played in front of a sparse South Yorkshire crowd, with just 1520 at the Keepmoat Stadium - 93 hardy souls made the trip from the North East to support the lads in Red and White.
Doncaster won 1-0, with young Tunisian Issam Ben Kemis scoring the only goal of the game. The 21-year-old was snapped up by Rovers from French side Lorient in the summer following a brief spell on trial.
Youngster Andrew Nelson led the Black Cats front line aided by U23 regulars Rees Greenwood and Luke Molynuex, with Sunderland’s first and only chance of note coming disappointingly just two minutes from time.
Jack Rodwell featured in the heart of the Sunderland defence alongside Tom Beadling, with Brendan Galloway operating as a third centre-back in the first half before the Everton loanee switched to left back in the second period.
The game was only Rodwell’s fifth of the campaign, as another season has begun just as previous ones petered out for the £10m man. It was his mistake - getting caught in possession - which led to the Doncaster winner.
The result leaves Sunderland firmly rooted to the bottom of Northern Group H with nothing to show for their two Checkatrade outings, eliminated on points with a meaningless trip to Grimsby Town next on the 8th of November.
‘Problem player’ Ndong
Having been restored to the Gabon squad which will take on Morocco at the weekend, reports claim several players and executives of the central-African nation are unhappy at Sunderland midfielder Didier Ndong’s presence in the side.
Sunderland’s record signing left the Gabonese camp during last month’s pair of matches against the Ivory Coast in a bust-up over the side’s captaincy, but has been selected ahead of Saturday’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Casablanca.
Gabonese newspaper Union Sonapresse claims some players had threatened not to travel to Morocco if Ndong was selected, before frantic peace talks paved the way for the 23-year-old’s return.
Identified in the African press as a ‘problem player’ thanks to various incidents in recent years, Ndong’s attitude is further called into question with accusations of a casual, disrespectful manner towards his national team.
Recall for Kone
Though he was dropped for Sunderland’s game against Preston at the weekend, Lamine Kone looks set for a return to first team action with the Ivory Coast in their game with Mali on Friday.
The Black Cats defender has not made it on to the playing field for his country since taking part in the African Cup of Nations at the turn of the year. Kone is expected to start at centre-back alongside Manchester United defender Eric Bailly as boss Marc Wilmotts shuffles his pack due to injuries.
Ivory Coast currently lead their qualifying group but are just a point ahead of Morocco and two clear of Gabon with a pair of fixtures remaining to seal a place at Russia 2018.
Kone has been disappointing for Sunderland in recent weeks as Simon Grayson’s men have failed to register a victory in their last nine league games. The 28-year-old’s attitude has repeatedly been called into question during a dismal twelve months on Wearside.