On Tuesday afternoon, Sunderland overcame the challenge of Carlisle United at the Stadium of Light, to claim their second successive pre-season win.
A brace from Charlie Wyke and a goal from Chris Maguire sealed the win, after Lewis Alessandra gave the visitors the lead just after the half time interval.
Phil Parkinson fielded a mostly different starting 11 for Tuesday afternoon’s friendly against Carlisle United. Both Morgan Feeney and Aiden O’Brien were provided with their first starts in the red and white of Sunderland, after their summer moves to Wearside.
Also, Remi Matthews began his first game in between the sticks for the Black Cats, after missing out at the weekend, after not having a COVID-19 test. After impressing on Saturday against Gateshead, Jack Diamond was also provided with a start, with Lynden Gooch beginning the match on the opposite flank. Max Power - who captained the side - was partnered alongside Josh Scowen in the centre of midfield.
First Half Action
In their first home pre-season friendly, the Black Cats had the first meaningful chance of the game when Jack Diamond’s cross from the left was directed towards goal from Conor McLaughlin, who was up from the back, but his diving header was saved by the outstretched leg of Paul Farman.
With just over 20 minutes on the clock, the visitors were forced into an early change when Brennan Dickenson went down after a hefty collision, when Gime Toure replacing him.
The closest Carlisle came to an opening in the first 25 minutes was a header from Gavin Reilly, after a teasing cross from the left, but his header was arrowed over the top of the crossbar.
No side really came close to an opening within the first 40 minutes of the match, with Josh Scowen attempting to double his tally in this pre-season, when his long-range effort was pin-pointed just wide of the right post.
After the end of the 45 minutes, the referee blew the whistle to call a halt to the opening half, with the score being Sunderland AFC 0-0 Carlisle United.
Second Half Action
Just over five minutes into the second half and Carlisle took the lead at the Stadium of Light. Daniel Devine lay the ball off for Lewis Alessandra, who took a couple of touches and then unleashed a shot, which originally bounced into the gloves of Remi Matthews, but the new Sunderland goalkeeper didn’t keep hold of the ball - allowing it to land into the back of the home net.
Sunderland attempted to create an instant response when a cross from Jack Diamond from the left, picked out Aiden O’Brien, but Sunderland’s new addition was unable to stretch his right leg long enough, to be able to divert the path of the ball into the back of the net.
The visitors almost doubled their lead when Lewis Alessandra, the Carlisle goalscorer, fed the ball through to Gavin Reilly, who arrowed his shot, aiming for the bottom corner, but a save by the feet of Remi Matthews meant that his attempt was diverted out for a corner.
Just like on Saturday at Gateshead, Phil Parkinson alternating his starting 11 by making whole-sale changes to the side on the hour, making sure that everyone is provided some match minutes in a competitive setting. Tom Flanagan became the only player to keep his place in the side, as the Sunderland boss made 10 changes.
Almost instantaneously, Sunderland brought themselves back level. After Maguire’s low shot forced a diving save from the Carlisle goalkeeper, Hume picked up the pieces and fired in a low cross towards the six-yard box. Wyke was able to beat the defender to the ball and then touched the ball under the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
The home side could have gone into the lead when a lovely ball was curled around the Carlisle back-line from the right wing to Dan Neil, who was well-placed in the penalty area, but his attempt was side-footed over the bar.
Not long after this, the Black Cats did take the lead when Luke O’Nien sprinted past the Carlisle defence, and then, the Sunderland wing-back was able to square the ball to Maguire, who coolly tucked it into the back of the net.
It may have been three-one in rather bizarre circumstances moments later, when O’Nien’s cross into the penalty area was deflected by a blue Carlisle shirt, and it was looking like it was going to loop over the goalkeeper, but he was able to tip it over the bar.
As the second half progressed, Sunderland began to apply more pressure onto the Carlisle backline, looking for a third goal and almost did when Chris Maguire’s shot was arrowed just wide of the left post.
With only nine minutes of the original 90 remaining, the Black Cats did find a third when a looping ball into the penalty area picked out Dan Neil, whose shot collided with the left post, before the rebound from Wyke was tucked into the bottom corner.
After the 90 minutes was concluded, the referee blew the full time whistle, with the match ending Sunderland AFC 3-1 Carlisle United.
172 days stood in between Sunderland’s final home game before lockdown - a 2-2 draw against Gillingham - and Tuesday afternoon’s pre-season victory over Carlisle United. Home comforts have returned for the Black Cats, but not in the way that they would have wanted.
In an ideal world, the Black Cats would have begun their League One season by now, but COVID-19 has stopped that from happening. No fans were allowed in the Stadium of Light, with fans been given the chance to buy a stream to be able to watch the match online.
The echoing noise from the pitch provided a backdrop for a quite dull opening 45 minutes. No team were able to really stake a claim to take the lead, but Carlisle provided a good test for the Black Cats. With no disrespect to Gateshead, for the Black Cats - who will be wanting to play in the second tier of English football in the 2021/22 campaign - a League Two side is a step up from playing a National League North side. As the first half progressed, both sides were beginning to push their way towards the opening goal, but the scoreline was still level come the half time interval.
When the clock struck the 60 minute mark, the boss made 10 changes and due to this, the game spun on its head. The Black Cats had their cutting edge back and pushed for the equaliser that came not long after through Wyke. It wasn’t the hardest finish from the striker, but he was in the right place at the right time for the goal - boosting his confidence. Maguire made it two, not long after, before Wyke grabbed himself another one to secure the win.
Overall, Parkinson will be happy that his side were able to claim another win in their quest towards the start of the League One season, but he still knows that there is work to do before September 5th.