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Talking Points: The latest crop of Sunderland’s academy stars were impressive - as was Watmore!

It was a good evening for Bali Mumba, Benji Kimpioka, Jack Bainbridge and Duncan Watmore as we disposed of Notts County in the Checkatrade Trophy last night - there’s plenty for us to be positive about right now!

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The kids are alright

I was delighted to see so many of our youngsters play well in last night’s game.

Jack Bainbridge looked really assured at left centre half and seemed to win just about everything, both in the air and on the deck. He looked comfortable playing the ball out and his youthful exuberance complimented the wisdom and strength of Loovens alongside him.

Whilst 17-year old Bali Mumba had a difficult first half playing at right wing back, he improved as the game went on and, by the end of the 90 minutes, he was arguably the best performing player on the pitch. Jack Ross spoke glowingly about what he saw from Bali and was really complimentary of his performance - it’s amazing to think that earlier this year he was a schoolkid, taking his GCSE exams, yet now he’s playing and standing out in games against professional opposition.

Then came Benji Kimpioka, who caused absolute mayhem when he replaced Duncan Watmore with just over 20 minutes left on the clock. He won us a penalty, tore past the Notts County midfield and defence on numerous occasions and was really unlucky not to bag himself a goal - talk about making an impact.

Say what you like about the Checkatrade Trophy, but it has been a revelation for Sunderland as we look to blood our most talented youngsters into the first team squad this season. It has allowed us to gift chances to the likes of Bainbridge, a player who Jack Ross has singled out as impressing him mightily in training over recent months and as someone who has really grasped the opportunity to prove his worth at Sunderland.

Keep it up, fellas.

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Duncan is BACK!

I was over the moon to see Duncan Watmore back out on the pitch last night.

What was perhaps best about his performance was that his ability to turn quickly and pace - arguably the strongest facets of his game before his first injury - were still there.

It was his brilliant movement that allowed us to score the first goal, and on more than one occasion after that he terrorised the Notts County defence whenever he ran at them - it was great to see him out there and enjoying himself, doing what he does best.

Duncan has to be managed carefully still, and I wouldn’t be in a rush to throw him into the first-team picture just yet. We could maybe name him amongst the squad on Saturday, but I’d imagine he’s more likely to get some minutes when we play Walsall in the FA Cup next week.

All in all, it was pleasing to see Duncan make another significant stride towards recovery - once he’s back up to speed fully, confident and happy that he’s back to an acceptable level, I have no doubt that he can be a real force in League One and and asset to Jack Ross’ squad.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Strange Sinclair

It was a funny old evening for Jerome Sinclair who, despite scoring, struggled to get going.

He worked incredibly hard as he always does, but nothing he did seemed to come off. He snatched the ball from Benji Kimpioka to dispose of the penalty, and in fairness his confidence grew once he got the goal.

That said, it’s hard watching Sinclair at times and I wonder what might happen with him once Watmore and Wyke are fit. It’s even possible that we might go out to sign a striker in the upcoming window, which would further reduce his chances.

Hopefully he can kick on from here, but he has to start taking his opportunities and scoring more often than he does. If he can add goals to his game he’d be a regular starter, but dropping in and out of the team as he does because of inconsistency isn’t helping his cause.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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