Hartlepool United 0 Sunderland U23 1: Cats LOVE Checkatrade Trophy

Sunderland celebrate Donald Love's winner. Picture by FRANK REID

Sunderland celebrate Donald Love's winner. Picture by FRANK REID

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Donald Love's second half strike was enough to hand Sunderland victory over Hartlepool United in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Love's 63rd-minute strike came after a sustained spell of pressure from the Black Cats, in which they had two strikes disallowed for offside while they found Pools stopper Adam Bartlett in fine form.

Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett rang the changes, making no less than eight as he used the full extent of his squad in this cup tie.

There were starts, meanwhile, for Love, Billy Jones and summer signing Mika Dominguez for the visitors who were looking to impress as David Moyes watched on.

It was the Premier League side who started brightest with Bartlett doing well to deny both Jones and George Honeyman in the opening exchanges.

Chances were few and far between for Pools, with two long-range efforts from first-half substitute Brad Walker failing to test Mika.

Young striker Josh Maja looked lively for the Black Cats and had two goals chalked out for offside either side of half-time as Sunderland poured forward.

This pressure eventually tolled just past the hour mark as Maja turned creator, feeding Love as he surged into the area before slotting past Bartlett.

The visitors finished the strongest as they pinned the hosts back with Pools unable to muster up any clear-cut chances in the dying minutes.

Sunderland now have a chance of progressing through the Group Stage as they prepare to host Notts County next month, while Pools are left with a dead-rubber tie against Rochdale.

Pools: Bartlett; Richards, Pollock, Harrison, Martin; Featherstone, Laurent (Green 69), Hawkins (Walker 7); Paynter, Heardman, Fewster (Orrell 25)

Subs Not Used: Dudzinski, Richardson, Deverdics, Blackford.

Sunderland: Domingues, Jones, Brady, Ledger (Lawson 53), T Robson, E Robson, Love, Greenwood (Molyneux 85), Honeyman, Maja, Beadling.

Subs Not Used: Stryjek, Casey, Pybus, Wright, J Robson.

Goal: Love (63)

Attendance: 1295 (420 away)