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Did anybody impress enough in the EFL Trophy to start in Sunderland’s League opener?

Did anyone impress enough in Sunderland’s demolition of Aston Villa U21s in the EFL Trophy to force their way into Phil Parkinson’s starting XI for our League One opener?

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Roker Roundtable: Did anybody impress enough in the EFL Trophy to start in the League opener?

Jack Howe-Gingell says...

You can only play what’s in front of you, and we certainly took advantage of facing a youthful Villa reserve side.

You could point towards Josh Scowen – he has been a stand out performer during our pre-season games, and performed well again. A goal and three assists, plus showing his ability from a dead ball, has to give some weight.

Charlie Wyke, for all his detractors, did his job and scored two, though I’d argue that was the minimum based upon the opposition. Still, it’s good to see him actually dominate and it has to bring him some confidence.

Grant Leadbitter showed he still has something to offer, after overcoming his recent personal battles.

Xhemajli and Feeney both looked solid, which will surely have Flanagan looking over his shoulder for a starting spot as the left sided centre back.

Aiden O’Brien did well in his short appearance finishing clinically, and this could be equally applied to the returning Danny Graham.

Finally, Jack Diamond again impressed with some willing running and dangerous crosses. Although Dan Neil didn’t set the world alight, the pair should be making the bench as far as I’m concerned.

Overall, we might just have some positive selection problems for a change. Hopefully it will all come nicely to fruition in our first league game on Saturday!

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy
Arbenit Xhemajli

Phil West says...

While it is important to consider the quality of our opponents on Tuesday night, and that Bristol Rovers will undoubtedly represent a step up when the league campaign begins on Saturday, I do think we can draw encouragement from the performances of several players. They’ve given Phil Parkinson something to think about ahead of the season opener.

I was extremely impressed with Morgan Feeney, who brought some composure and maturity to our defence, and showed some undoubted flashes of his Everton and international pedigree. Defensively, we are developing some genuine depth, which is encouraging, and I don’t think the concession of slack goals is something that we will fall victim to regularly this season.

Josh Scowen, in my opinion, was the main winner from Tuesday night. He was dynamic, energetic, and played like a man who was determined to make up for lost time, after a frustrating Sunderland career so far – as well as someone determined to show his worth to the team. In my opinion, he should be a nailed-on starter for Saturday.

Finally, I thought Charlie Wyke did his chances of selection no harm at all, with a solid, two-goal display that would have certainly given him a welcome shot of confidence, and Parkinson some encouragement. Personally, I would start Grigg on Saturday, and then it’s the flip of a coin between Wyke and Danny Graham, but we are heading into the new season with our three strikers in decent (ish) form, which, to me, is both surprising and extremely welcome.

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy
Josh Scowen
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Chris Wynn says...

While I think a few players would have given Phil Parkinson a nice problem as a football manager, I think the level of the opposition will make him think twice about making any drastic decisions based on that performance.

Josh Scowen may have started against Hull City if it wasn’t for a knock he picked up in pre-season, so if anybody forces their way into the reckoning he may get place in the middle of the park against Bristol Rovers.

Morgan Feeney looked the part at the back as did Xhemajli, but I’d be surprised if Parkinson changes a side that kept a clean sheet based on a performance against a toothless young Villa side.

It was also nice to see Grant Leadbitter back on the pitch for Sunderland and surprisingly led the charge at times to coordinate pushing onto the opposition high up the pitch to win the ball back. I have a feeling he may feature more this season than some might think.

Although Charlie Wyke scored twice, I still thought our build up play took place around him rather than through him and his goals came courtesy of a side a didn’t seem to challenge for aerial balls. Taking into account how Grigg and O’Brien linked up against Hull and the sharpness Danny Graham displayed in his short cameo, I’d expect Wyke to be fourth in the pecking order.

Great result, but as ever the EFL Trophy keeps proving to us time and time again just what a bizarre competition it is.

Sunderland v Aston Villa U21: EFL Trophy
Grant Leadbitter
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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