On Tuesday night, Duncan Watmore played just over 65 minutes in his first start back in first team action against Notts County in the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy at the Stadium of Light - a fairly routine, comfortable victory in which we ran out as 2-0 winners.
Over 8,500 supporters came out to the Stadium of Light on an extremely frosty night to see their team play in a competition which could provide Sunderland fans with another opportunity to see their team play in a Wembley final.
Jack Ross made a number of changes to the side that drew 1-1 in the second round of the FA Cup at Walsall on Saturday - a fairly strong side that included the likes of Jerome Sinclair, Max Power and Bryan Oviedo. The gaffer also gave starts to Jack Bainbridge and Bali Mumba while, as already mentioned, Duncan Watmore started for the first time in over a year.
The team started the game slowly in the first half, as we struggled to get the ball forward quickly in order to release a much-needed killer pass when there were opportunities to do so. We took too long to be decisive - had we done so, we could have wrapped the game up early doors as, in truth, our opponents weren’t great.
We took the lead in the 22nd minute when Duncan Watmore was fed through and used his immense pace to get past the Notts County defenders. His shot was pushed away by the visiting goalkeeper, but the ball was deflected into his own net by Daniel Jones.
I thought that Luke O’Nien was a handful for the County defence and midfield - he was keen to get involved with every good thing that surrounded Sunderland. In the end, things often got messy and they’d resort to dragging him back or fouling in order to prevent him building up momentum with his play.
When Notts County eventually start to apply some pressure in the first half, Robbin Ruiter did magnificently to keep them at bay - especially the header from Kristian Dennis which the Dutchman did well to save quickly down at his left-hand side.
In the second half, the boss brought on youngster Benji Kimpioka, and he made an immediate impact when he was brought down in the penalty area, which the referee pointed to the spot for. The Swede wanted to take the penalty but Jerome Sinclair snatched the ball out of his hands and calmly disposed of the spot kick to double our lead.
I thought that Watmore did well in his first ‘proper’ game since his comeback, and he was one of the key players for Sunderland, using his exceptional pace to get past the League Two defenders on more than one occasion in what was a man of the match performance.
The draw for the third round and last 16 will take place on Saturday 8th December 2018 at 12.20pm on Sky Sports News, and it would be a fierce contest if we were to be drawn against Newcastle United’s U23s, who are one of the seven Northern clubs that Sunderland could face in our next Checkatrade Trophy tie.
Next up on Saturday we face a trip to Accrington Stanley, where its expected that we’ll fill nearly half of the stadium as both the home and away allocations have sold out - the Wham Stadium should be buzzing.
Hopefully, with Chris Maguire, George Honeyman and maybe Lee Cattermole back from injury, we can come away with all three points and put some real pressure on league leaders Portsmouth, who have a fairly routine home fixture with Bristol Rovers facing them at the weekend.