The performances of new boy Bradley Dack and academy product Chris Rigg were the only positives for the Lads as we endured a humiliating evening in the League Cup.
The Black Cats went down 5-4 on penalties to League Two side Crewe Alexandra, who in the process claimed their first ever competitive victory on Wearside. There weren’t many positives for the hosts; however, the showings of Dack and Rigg certainly gave hope for the rest of the campaign.
Dack has been slowly working his way back up to match fitness having been without a club before joining Sunderland. This meant that he was only introduced at half time, but he soon began to demonstrate what he is capable of. The ex-Blackburn man showed a series of neat touches in and around the Crewe box and his first contribution of note was a sublime through ball for forward Jewison Bennette, who should have done better, but was beaten to the ball by visiting keeper Harvey Davies.
Dack continued to probe, playing some perfectly weighted cross field balls to the Sunderland wingers, who were unable to take advantage. He almost made it the fairytale ending to his debut deep into stoppage time when found by Alex Pritchard’s lofted ball over the top, however the forward was on the stretch and his effort was well kept out by an alert Davies. The night ultimately ended in disappointment for Dack, but on this showing and if Sunderland can keep him fit, then he could well be an extremely useful weapon for Tony Mowbray to have in his armory as the season goes on.
The other player to come out with credit was academy product Chris Rigg. The 16-year old’s performance will quite rightly be remembered for the history it made, as he became the youngest ever player to score for Sunderland when he lashed home from the middle of the area after Crewe had failed to deal with Jack Clarke’s cutback.
The youngster’s performance wasn’t just about his goal though: he showed a great level of maturity throughout and was a threat to the Crewe back line, especially in the second half after struggling to get into the game for the opening half an hour or so.
It will be interesting to see how much game time Rigg gets from here and whether he will be able to make a similar impact on Championship defences - if that is indeed where he gets his first team opportunities.
Mowbray has in previous weeks hinted at Rigg being far more involved in the first team picture this year than he was last, and on this evidence, he certainly looks like he could step into the side if and when he is called upon.
Given the troubles the club is currently having in the striking department it is possible that opportunity could come along a lot quicker than most people - or even Rigg himself - would have imagined.