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FINLAY’S REPORT: The pros and cons of Sunderland doing well in the Checkatrade Trophy

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Sunderland stand a cracking chance of doing well in this year’s Checkatrade Trophy - should we take it seriously or, like many other League One and Two clubs, should we deprioritise it?

Sunderland AFC

Tuesday night’s game against Carlisle was more entertaining than the previous Checkatrade Trophy game against the Stoke City’s youngsters - for a start, we were treated to three goals from the hosts and another Sunderland win, so there’s that!

The Checkatrade Trophy itself is not the most glamorous competition but for Jack Ross and other League One and Two managers, it gives them a chance to have a look at different players that are not one of the first names on the team sheet on a weekly basis, or as a match for players who are coming back from injury to get some valuable minutes under their belts.

On top of that, it the best opportunity that some teams will ever have to get to Wembley and win something, so for those reasons alone it can be a good tournament if you are prepared to invest fully into it.

On the other hand, it means even more matches on top of the 46 league games we play, along with the FA Cup and League Cup, which involves a more compact schedules for supporters and managers to organise.

That aside, fans generally don’t invest in the early stages of the competition - whilst Sunderland comfortably had the biggest attendance of the latest round of fixtures, most games struggle to attract more than 1000 supporters, with many disinterested in the competition and what it stands for now that U23s teams are permitted to compete.

This match against Carlisle United was our fourth game in a matter of ten days and Jack Ross didn’t have any other option but to use the slim options he had available to him - there were 14 first team players missing in total, a ridiculous amount.

We started the match well, with Benji Kimpioka showing why he’s been more involved first team stage for the last few matches by nodding in from close range from Aiden McGeady’s cross from the left wing.

Shortly after, we were pegged back when Baldwin was caught napping and Ashley Nadesan sprinted past him to calmly slot the ball underneath an on-rushing Robbin Ruiter to put Carlisle United level after 22 minutes.

We were back in the driving seat when Ethan Robson fired his shot into the bottom right hand corner after George Honeyman’s shot was blocked just inside the penalty area by a Cumbrian player.

Honeyman did get himself a goal when he was gifted a tonne of space inside the penalty area after Matthews’ amazing through ball from the outside of his right boot, and the academy product tucked it away from a few yards out.

In the end, in my opinion, the quality of Aiden McGeady and Chris Maguire shone through on the visitors as they were being beaten for pace and for skill on both wings.

Our final Checkatrade Trophy group stage match comes from the Globe Arena, where we take on League Two, Morecombe, hoping for qualification to the round of 32 and a step closer to the Wembley final towards the end of March.