ANALYSIS: Richard Mennear’s report on Pools v Sunderland

Tommy Miller in action against Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID
Tommy Miller in action against Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID

THERE is no shame in losing 3-0 to a Premier League side.

But last night’s pre-season defeat to Sunderland highlighted more than ever the need for reinforcements at Victoria Park.

Pools are probably four players away from having a decent squad ahead of the assault on Sky Bet League Two, which is now just a couple of weeks away.

Colin Cooper knows it. He said as much afterwards. Not that it is easy of course and the Pools manager admits he is having to be patient in the pursuit of new faces.

Cooper hopes to sign one or two permanent players with the other additions coming from the loan market, something which Pools proved quite adept at last season.

Christian Burgess - who was watching in the stands last night - excelled during a season-long loan from Middlesbrough, while other Boro loanees Matty Dolan and Luke Williams also impressed, along with Jack Barmby, formerly of Manchester United.

Sunderland pair Scott Harrison and Connor Oliver also turned out for Pools towards the end of the season, the former doing well at centre half.

So, there is no surprise Cooper will be looking to make the most of the loan market.

Whether it be loan or permanent signings, Pools are in need of cover at centre back, an experienced central midfielder, a right winger and additional firepower up front if they are to be a force next season.

Last night Pools toiled and battled hard against an experienced Sunderland team in the opening 60 minutes - managing to keep the likes to Adam Johnson, Seb Larsson and Steven Fletcher at bay.

But then Gus Poyet brought on the cavalry, in the shape of the Under-21 team. And they ripped Pools apart three times in eight minutes to secure the win.

Pools started with Tommy Miller, currently on trial, in central midfield alongside Stuart Parnaby, who has started all three pre-season matches in that position.

But it meant, at times, Pools were effectively playing with a back six with the pair playing just in front of the defence.

With Brad Walker on the right wing and Jack Compton on the left struggling to get any of the ball they kept coming inside, which meant Pools were too narrow and Sunderland took advantage.

Their full-backs had the freedom of the Vic for large periods of the first-half - Duncan Watmore down the right wing in particular.

Pools also struggled for pace and while there was some moments of positive football, there was some sloppy moments as well and Walker, Compton and Luke James struggled to have an impact.

Plenty to work on then for Cooper & Co, which is what you’d expect at this stage of pre-season.

Everyone knew last night’s match would prove a tougher test than Billingham Town (9-0 win) and Bradford Park Avenue (1-0 win) and so it proved, but is should at least stand them in good stead for the week’s ahead.

Miller started the match, the first time he was worn a Pools shirt at Victoria Park since he left 13 years ago, while fellow trialist Michael Woods was out injured after pulling a groin in the warm-up.

Pools started brightly - in more ways than one given they were debuting the new bright pink away shirt.

James’ low shot from six-yards out was prodded round the post by 6ft 8” debutant Costel Pantilimon for a corner. The teenager played in by Parnaby.

Sunderland trialist Max Clayton, out of contract at Crewe Alexandra, had their first attempt but his curling shot from distance was safely wide in the fifth minute.

As you would expect, it was Sunderland that had the lions share of possession and looked the more likely to open the scoring.

Fletcher found himself free inside the box with 16 minutes gone but his low effort from six-yards out was well-blocked by Scott Flinders.

In the 24th minute Johnson delicately controlled a cross-field pass from El-Hadji Ba - who had impressed with his forward running - to comfortably beat Holden on the right-wing.

But his rasping shot was high and wide of the left-hand post.

Moments later a mis-placed Walker pass let in Johnson through the centre of the Pools defence, he laid the ball off to Fletcher but his left-footed curler hit the post.

Ba then dragged a shot wide, while James was unable to take advantage of a mis-placed Cattermole pass - a bad touch letting the ball get away from him.

At the break, Cooper tinkered with his formation. James was pushed wide right, Compton wide left and Walker playing centrally behind sub Jonathan Franks, who’d come on for Marlon Harewood.

The second half also saw the volume and intensity crank up, especially as the game approached the hour mark.

Poyet had 11 subs lined up to come on and their presence on the touchline seemed to give the Sunderland players on the pitch a lift.

Moments before the changes, dangerous Clayton came in from the touchline and fired just wide of the Flinders’ right-hand post.

Then came the mass substitution - all 11 of them.

Sub George Honeyman had the first chance, delicately floating a chip just over the bar of the back-pedalling Flinders.

The Under 21s looked sharp and full of intent and it didn’t take them long to open up Pools.

Carl Lawson with a lovely effort from the edge of the penalty area, curling past the outstretched hand of Flinders and into the corner of the net in the 70th minute.

Two minutes later and it was 2-0.

Andrew Cartwright combining well with Lynden Gooch before the former slid the ball past Flinders to send the away fans into raptures.

Sunderland’s young guns were certainly putting themselves firmly in the loan market shop window with an impressive display.

It was soon 3-0.

In the 77th minute, Cartwright bombed forward again from right-back and his fierce shot struck Bates and deflected past Flinders and in.

Franks found himself in a decent position in the 85th minute, but his shot was high and wide.

That proved to be the last of the goalmouth action as Pools suffered their first defeat of pre-season.

Next up is Whitby Town away on Saturday.

Pools (4-4-2): Flinders, Duckworth, Austin, Bates, Holden, Parnaby, Miller, Walker, Harewood (Franks, 45), James, Compton (Smith, 74).

Subs: Rafferty, Woods, Rowbotham, Nearney, Hawkins, Rowbotham, Jones.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Pantilimon, Watmore, O’Shea, Roberge, Ferguson, Cattermole, Larsson, Ba, Johnson, Clayton, Fletcher

Sunderland (All used after 60 minutes): Pickford, Cartwright, Robson T, Harrison, Beadling, Agnew, Honeyman, Smith, Gooch, Lawson, Mandron

Goals: Lawson (70), Cartwright (72, 77)

Ref: Nigel Miller

Attendance: 5,617 (3,252 Sunderland)