This is where the Checkatrade Trophy gets tough... the knockout stages!
Sunderland won 1-0 at the Globe Arena on Tuesday night to finish top of Northern Group A in the EFL Trophy, ahead of Stoke City’s u21s, Carlisle United and Morecombe - the latest team to fail at the task of defeating Jack Ross’ spiritual side.
The gaffer made a full set of changes to the side that won 2-1 against Port Vale on Sunday afternoon in the first round of the FA Cup. Youngsters including Jordan Hunter, Jake Hackett and Jack Diamond all came into the side for one of their first starts in the Sunderland first team.
With three games in the matter of just seven days, Ross gambled on including some of the best players in our U23s squad in his team - and it’s fair to say that those lads will have learned a great deal from their experience of playing in a game alongside seniors like Max Power, Bryan Oviedo and Glenn Loovens.
With one eye on the League One fixture with Wycombe Wanderers in front of a home crowd on Saturday it was a good chance to see exciting new players coming through the academy and see what they could do in a first team competition.
I have to take my hat off to the 1,569 Sunderland fans that travelled down to Morecambe - despite this showing how low we have dropped in the past few years, the supporters are taking it within their grasp as is the team.
To have more away fans than home fans is extraordinary and very rare in today’s game but it is something that the supporters should be proud of.
The first half was pretty even with both sides having the equal amount of possession and shots but none of them really challenged the two goalkeepers.
We were given a scare on numerous occasions when Robbin Ruiter let the ball slip out of his hands but managed to resolve the situation and didn’t embarrass himself in front of the 2,377 supporters at the Globe Arena.
Just as we thought the match would be going to penalties to see who would gain the extra bonus point, Josh Maja produced a moment of magic when Oviedo lobbed the ball diagonally to his feet before squeezing it into the bottom left corner, sending the travelling fans behind the goal wild.
In the end we finished top of the group so we go into Friday’s draw for the next round, knowing that we will have a home tie... and maybe, just maybe, another match against Walsall!