KEVIN Ball confessed his disappointment that his Under-21 side did not live up to the occasion in the Wear-Tyne derby at the Stadium of Light last night.
But he also pointed out that he was proud of his players never-say-die attitude which earned them a last-minute equaliser in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
He said: “It was one of those games where I was hoping we would go on to build from our previous performance, but it never really happened.
“We played last week at Aston Villa, and were absolutely exceptional even though we got beat, and I wanted us to maintain those standards against Newcastle.
“This stage of a young footballer’s life is all about development, and I wanted them to replicate that performance on a show surface because football at this level is not so much about results, as it is about consistency. Players who aspire to one day be first-team players have to be able to demonstrate that consistency and that was what I was looking for.
“We went 1-0 down to a goal that could have been prevented, but when we got it back to 1-1, I thought we would go on to win it.
“Then we go 2-1 down and miss a penalty, and that was possibly the moment in the game when I began to be pleased.
“I felt we could easily have lost it 3-1 or more at that point, because that can happen if you have the disappointment of missing a penalty.
“But I was satisfied with them in the way they didn’t let their heads drop, in the way that they came back for the second time in the game to get a late equaliser.”
Ball thought that perhaps the occasion got to one or two of Sunderland’s players, but says he hopes it will stand them in good stead.
“The youngsters presume the Stadium of Light pitch is massive,” he reflected.
“But I have to tell him that it is the same size as the one at the Academy. They don’t see that.
“They just see the size and the occasion, and it’s interesting. They need to get it out of the way – they’ve got to learn to deal with it.
“If we could play all our games there I would be delighted – the operational manager won’t feel the same way I’m sure – but as a player it is a great experience.
“I would love us to play half a dozen games there.
“We played at the Britannia against Stoke, and the players enjoyed it.”
SUNDERLAND: Pickford, Marrs, Armstrong (Harrison, 19), Oliver, Ferguson, Gorrin (Laidler, 74), Vaughan, Reed, Deacon, Lynch, Wickham (Mandron, 83).