Jack Ross’ men eased their way into the next stage of the Checkatrade Trophy Notts County as Duncan Watmore made a fine return to the Sunderland first team.
Sunderland took the lead through a Daniel Jones own goal after some great work from Watmore and then doubled the lead in the second half through a Jerome Sinclair penalty. The away side had a few good chances in the first half but faded as Sunderland dominated for large periods of the game.
Sunderland returned to Checkatrade action in the first knockout round against the Magpies who finished second in their group behind Newcastle U21s.
Duncan Watmore made his first start for the club since October 2017, he was involved in a much-changed Sunderland side with Jack Bainbridge, Alim Ozturk and Bali Mumba getting rare starts.
Notts County have struggled this season and have only won three league games this season and are in 23rd place in League Two.
The Nottinghamshire side have recently sacked Kevin Nolan and now have Neal Ardley at the helm as they look to get some wins under their belt.
The away side had a few familiar faces with David Vaughan returning to the Stadium of Light, as well as Jon Stead who started on the bench.
Notts County started slightly better and had a good chance early on, Robert Milsom’s freekick was whipped in from the right and deceived Ruiter as the ball flew over his head, but just wide of the far post.
Sunderland had their first chance of the game after some fine work from Watmore. Working from the left, he cut inside and played it to Jerome Sinclair who laid it off for Mumba whose shot was comfortably saved by Ross Fitzsimons.
After a shaky start from the lads, it was a much-improved response and Sunderland was finding gaps in the County defence.
Max Power was next to try his luck and his curling effort from range had Fitzsimons beaten, however, his effort just whistled past the far post.
Sunderland took deservedly took the lead after some great play by Duncan Watmore. The winger was sent through on goal by Dylan McGeouch and fired towards goal. His effort was saved but then hit off defender Daniel Jones who couldn’t get out of the way as he turned into his own net.
Robin Ruiter came to Sunderland’s rescue to deny Kristian Dennis from levelling, whose header was going into the bottom right corner, the Dutchman got down brilliantly to parry the effort wide.
What all Sunderland fans wanted to see was Watmore back to his old self, and while he’s still got some time to go it, was a joy to watch him back on the field. His direct style of play proved to be a nightmare for the County defenders.
Bryan Oviedo almost doubled Sunderland’s lead shortly before the break with a strike from long range, Fitzsimons was equal to the effort as he acrobatically saved tipped it over the bar.
After being heavily involved in the first goal Watmore almost got a goal of his own at the start of the second half. He played a great one-two with Luke O’Nien and jinked his way inside and on his left foot was denied by the Notts County keeper who saved well.
Sunderland were awarded a penalty as Benji Kimpioka and Mumba played a great one-two, the former raced towards goal but was clearly brought down for the penalty. Sinclair stepped up and sent Fitzsimons the wrong way as he doubled the lead.
Jerome Sinclair forgot who he was and turned into Cristiano Ronaldo, he took on three players with some exceptional skill, but his shot was brilliantly saved by the County stopper.
Notts County should have scored a consolation very late on, however, Andy Kellett’s effort from eight yards out was blasted over the bar.
Bali Mumba could have put the icing on the cake as his effort went wide following some great work from Kimpioka to set him up.
Final Score: 2-0
ALS Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady