A large outbreak of gastroenteritis threw a massive spanner in the works for Sunderland ahead of their final pre-season friendly against Hull City.
Lee Burge was one of those that was missing, as Anthony Patterson took the goalkeeper jersey on the final opportunity to gain the number one shirt for next weekend’s league opener. Lynden Gooch also returned, whilst Josh Hawkes was provided with another opportunity to impress. Ahead of coming up against Charlie Wyke next weekend, Ross Stewart was given another chance to show how he can replace the striker for Lee Johnson.
First Half Action
The first Hull chance came when Greg Docherty flicked the ball through to Keane Lewis-Potter, but his shot dipped just wide of the right post.
Lewis-Potter tried again, as his shot from the wing was powered into the gloves of Anthony Patterson.
Just like in the past couple of pre-season matches, Elliot Embleton proved decisive in Sunderland’s attacking play as he found space inside of the penalty area, but arrowed the ball over the bar.
The Black Cats pressed well from the front, and Hull looked more creative on the counter-attack, with Docherty forcing Patterson into an easy save after breaking away.
Sunderland found it hard to keep hold of possession in the centre of the park, but their opening goal arrived when they won back the ball on the halfway line, before it eventually dropped for Elliot Embleton. He produced a moment of brilliant play to find Ross Stewart, who was able to slip it into the bottom right corner.
Hull almost found an immediate response as Patterson was almost caught off his line - Josh Magennis tried to curl the ball around the Sunderland goalkeeper, but his effort was angled narrowly wide.
With the half-time interval approaching, Sunderland begun to dominate with Elliot Embleton being instrumental yet again, as his bending effort from just inside of the penalty area was punched away by Matt Ingram.
It was Embleton yet again, as he cut onto his right foot, before sending an effort goalwards, which forced the ‘keeper into pushing the ball wide of the left post.
Second Half Action
Early changes at the start of the second half altered the game’s flow with Aiden O’Brien, Oliver Younger and Jack Diamond being introduced for the Black Cats.
Hull looked more threatening and soon found their reward when a teasing cross across the face of the Sunderland goal from Lewie Coyle was not dealt with, and Josh Magennis was able to stab the ball into the bottom corner.
With the game back level, Jamie MacAllister introduced Ellis Taylor and Will Grigg; the latter making a huge difference towards the latter of the match.
Before that, Hull maybe should have put the game to bed, as Keane Lewis-Potter’s free kick from around 25 yards out was beaten away by Anthony Patterson.
The youngster had another effort to give the Tigers the lead, when a cut-back found him inside of the penalty area, but fortunately it was blocked by the leg of Tom Flanagan.
After being second best for large parts of the second half, the Black Cats forced their way into a late lead, through what could prove a massive boost for the confidence of Will Grigg.
Diamond’s corner was met by Flanagan, and with the ball flying across goal, the Northern Irishman prodded it home at the far post.
Here we go again.
For the fourth successive year, another League One season is just around the corner for a Sunderland side, and for the fourth time, fans are left wondering whether this will be Sunderland’s season.
The lack of transfer activity leaves Lee Johnson’s side one step behind of the chasing pack in League One, but for once, may this actually work in the favour of the Black Cats?
The answer will only come at the end of April next year, but for now, an outbreak of gastroenteritis has placed Lee Johnson’s plans in turmoil.
Just like on Friday, Jamie MacAllister will likely take control of training until Johnson can return, but despite the lack of transfer activity, Friday night’s latest friendly showed the confidence that the youngsters have in stepping up to take on first-team opposition.
A win against a Championship side can only provide confidence to a side that despite the issues still remaining off the pitch regarding transfers, are still performing to their best.
The likelihood of signing a full-back before next Saturday is becoming increasingly more unlikely, but both Carl Winchester and Dan Neil showed their characteristics in their roles at the heart of defence.
Also, the likelihood of Will Grigg departing from the club is even more unlikely, so why should Lee Johnson not use him? Maybe – just maybe – his goal will become the catalyst for an increase in confidence from the striker, who just hasn’t made it on Wearside.
At the moment, Johnson will be looking to utilise the striker against his former club next week, as a full capacity crowd eventually returns to the Stadium of Light in a competitive match for the first time since March 2020.
During the post-match interviews, both the players and Jamie MacAllister emphasised the importance of the fans this season. Without new transfers, fans may just prove to be another signing for the club compared to last season.
Wigan will not be an easy task for the opening day; Charlie Wyke and Max Power may prove to come back to haunt the Black Cats, but Sunderland must start positively.
But for now, prepare yourself, strap yourself in, because it’s going to be a gigantic ride with Sunderland between now and May 2022.