Josh Maja’s last-minute strike sealed the three points as Sunderland topped the Checkatrade Trophy group in front of an impressive 1,569 away fans.
Morecambe had the best chance in the first half as they struck the post, while Jordan Hunter had Sunderland’s best effort. Neither side could stamp their authority in the second half, but Josh Maja sealed the win with a late goal.
Sunderland made the trip to Morecambe and selected a totally different eleven to the side which beat Port Vale.
Jack Bainbridge, Jake Hackett and Jordan Hunter made their first team debuts. Jack Diamond made his first start for the first team alongside Josh Maja in a 3-5-2 system.
Out of the first team players, Max Power was given the captains armband. Bryan Oviedo, Glenn Loovens Alim Ozturk and Luke O’Nien were all looking to impress and make a claim for a permanent role in the team.
Morecambe drew 0-0 in their FA Cup game at the weekend against Halifax Town and have struggled in League Two and are in 20th place.
The home side had the first chance of the game ten minutes in from a corner. Jason Oswell’s header was cleared off the line from O’Nien who saved a certain goal. It was an early let-off for Sunderland who hadn’t got going in the opening ten.
Sunderland’s first effort came through Hunter who cut inside from the right and tried to beat Morecambe keeper Mark Halstead at his near post. The stopper did well to parry the shot wide of the post.
With a huge 1,500 plus away support, it sounded as if the game was being played at home. An incredible effort for a Tuesday night game in the Checkatrade trophy.
The youngsters were really beginning to stamp their authority in the game as Hackett tested Halstead with a curling cross/shot and the keeper needed to parry it away from danger.
The game really started to open up with just under half an hour on the clock, as Morecambe hit the post. Alex Kenyon rattled the upright from 25 yards out and had Robbin Ruiter scrambling to his left-hand side.
While Sunderland weren’t playing too bad, there was a lack of quality in the final third. Josh Maja had barely touched the ball in the opposing third although, Diamond and Hackett were having solid outings.
As the half ended it became obvious that neither side was really trying to go all out, Morecambe like Sunderland had little to play for but for the opposite reasons. Sunderland had qualified, but a win would have ensured top spot in the group and a home tie in the next round.
The second half began in a similar fashion with neither side dominating the match. No doubt Jack Ross would have been looking to the bench to change the game and add a spark to his side.
After some great play down the left side as Oviedo found Diamond, the forward cut inside and should have scored. He hit it just to central as Hatfield saved, the youngster was furious with himself as he knew he should have scored his first senior goal.
Sunderland were growing into the game and the Costa Rican wingback was having a big say in that. He had a curling effort of his own minutes later which was blocked.
The Shrimps began to assert themselves on the game and were targeting the flanks as they looked to test the Sunderland centre back trio.
Sunderland were lucky not to have been behind as Ruiter made a complete mess of a cross. He almost dropped it into his own net, but it went just behind for a corner. It’s fair to say Jon McLaughlin won’t have been too worried about his about his position between the sticks.
Maja was inches away from opening the scoring after a fine low cross from Oviedo. The wing-back whipped it into the box, but it was a whisker away from the sliding Maja.
Morecambe almost won the game, but Ruiter denied Josef Yarney late on as the Dutch keeper saved the shot brilliantly and was then forced to tip it over the bar as he couldn’t hold on.
Just as penalties looked inevitable Josh Maja scored a stoppage-time winner. Oviedo made a great run down the left and picked out Maja at the back post, he finished it superbly as he finally added a bit of quality to the game that had been missing.
Final Score: 1-0
ALS Man of the Match: Bryan Oviedo