HARTLEPOOL United have been beaten 3-0 by Premier League neighbours Sunderland at Victoria Park this evening.
All the goals came in the final 20 minutes once Sunderland manager Gus Poyet had changed his entire starting line-up with Under-21 players.
A double from Andrew Cartwright and a lovely strike from Carl Lawson enough to secure the pre-season win against Sky Bet League Two side Pools.
Colin Cooper named trialist Tommy Miller in his starting line-up at Victoria Park, with fellow trialist Michael Woods on the bench.
Miller, playing at the Vic in a Pools shirt for the first time in 13 years, is training with the club and tonight’s pre-season friendly was another chance to impress the Pools manager.
New signings Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby were also named in the starting line-up against Gus Poyet’s Sunderland, who split his squad between tonight’s match and Carlisle United away on Tuesday night.
Poyet named a strong side, with new signing Costel Pantilimon starting in goal, while Lee Cattermole, Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher were all in the team as well.
So far Pools have played two pre-season games, beating Billingham Town 9-0 and Bradford Park Avenue 1-0, but tonight’s game was always going to prove their toughest test to date.
Yet it was the home side that started brightly - in more ways than one given they were debuting the new bright pink away shirt.
Last season’s top scorer Luke James’ low shot from six-yards out was prodded round the post by 6ft 8” Pantilimon for a corner. The teenager played in by Parnaby.
Sunderland trialist Max Clayton, out of contract at Crewe Alexandra, had the first attempt on goal for Poyet’s side but his curling shot from distance was safely wide in the fifth minute.
Brad Walker - pushed out wide right - then fired high over the bar moments later.
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 in the 16th minute but his low effort from six-yards out on the left-hand side was well-blocked by Scott Flinders.
Pools had lined up with Miller and Parnaby both sitting in front of the back four and during the first-half Cooper’s side struggled for width - with Jack Compton often coming inside to look for the ball.
Sunderland continued to dominate possession as the half wore on, with Duncan Watmore getting far too much space down the right-hand side as a result of Pools’ narrow style.
In the 24th minute Johnson delicately controlled a cross-field pass from El-Hadji Ba - who had impressed with his forward running - to beat Darren Holden on the right-wing.
But his rasping shot was high and wide of the left-hand post.
Moments later a mis-placed 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.
In the 39th minute, John O’Shea played in Ba but he dragged his shot from the edge of the area wide of the left stick.
Cattermole then gave the ball away in a dangerous area, with James taking advantage and bursting forward.
Sadly, a bad touch let the ball get away from him and the danger was snuffed out.
The game petered out as the interval approached.
Half-Time: Pools 0 Sunderland 0
Cooper tinkered with his formation after the break, with James pushed wide right, Compton wide left and Walker playing behind sub Jonathan Franks, who’d come on for Harewood.
The volume and intensity cranked up in the second-half as the game approached the 60 minute 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.
Clayton again looking dangerous, coming in from the touchline and firing just wide of the Flinders’ right-hand post in the 59th minute.
Then came the mass substitution - all 11 of them.
Poyet giving his Under-21 players a chance to impress, including defender Scott Harrison, who spent a spell on loan at Pools towards the end of last season.
Sub George Honeyman had the first chance, delicately floating a chip just over the bar of the back-pedalling Flinders.
The youth players 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 Pools 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 certainly put 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 into the Pools goal.
Franks found himself in a decent position in the 85th minute, but his shot was high and wide of the left-post, similar to Johnson’s effort for Sunderland in the first half.
And that was that in terms of goal action, Poyet’s Sunderland side running out 3-0 winners.
Full-Time: Pools 0 Sunderland 3
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)