Sunderland’s Luke O’Nien celebrates after the final whistle during the Sky Bet League One Play-off, Semi Final, Second Leg match at Fratton Park, Portsmouth.


Sunderland opened their pre-season with a trip to Mariner’s Park to face South Shields with the game ending in a Sunderland victory thanks to goals from Ethan Robson and Luke O’Nien.


The game got off to a fast start with Sunderland having the first chance of the game. New signing Conor McLaughlin lofted the ball to the captain George Honeyman who skipped past a tackle from a South Shields defender and got to the by-line before pulling the ball back, only for it to be turned behind for a corner.


Sunderland took the lead soon after as South Shields were caught out trying to play out from the back by Ethan Robson who won the ball back just inside the South Shields half. The ball deflected into the path of George Honeyman, Honeyman found Benji Kimpioka who indivertibly played the ball into Robson who placed the ball into the top right corner.


However, South Shields weren’t going down without a fight and after Dylan McGeouch lost control of the ball in midfield it was played down the South Shields right to Gillies who crossed the ball into the Sunderland penalty area causing a bit of goal mouth scramble before the ball came out wide to former Sunderland man Blair Adams who played the ball straight into the hands of new signing Lee Burge.


Sunderland came straight back at them though Ethan Robson once again winning the ball on the half-way line and playing it to the dangerous Kimpioka who ran at the South Shields defence before moving onto his left foot and having his shot saved by Connell who did well to save the rebound from Charlie Wyke.


The next chance came from a Sunderland corner after the ball was whipped in by Under 23 midfielder Jake Hackett and was dealt with poorly by South Shields. The ball came out to Kimpioka who after playing a one-two with McGeouch on the edge box blazed his shot over the bar.


The final action of the first half came from a South Shields corner after Sunderland failed to deal with the corner Burge was forced into instinctive reaction save with Dillon Morse hitting the side netting with the rebound causing celebrations from a minority of the home supporters.


Sunderland made wholesale changes in the second half with ten substitutions and they didn’t take long to get into the game as Grant Leadbitter played the ball out wide to Luke O’Nien who quickly gave it to Chris Maguire to loft the ball into the box towards Duncan Watmore who had his attempted header saved before Elliot Embleton dragged his shot wide from the centre of the box.


Sunderland came back again with Jack Baldwin playing well weighted ball into the feet off Maguire who played it into the path of the on-running Luke O’Nien who drilled the ball around the back of the South Shields defence with Will Grigg flicking the ball wide of post.


Sunderland’s long awaited second goal came soon after with Watmore and Maguire playing a one two before the forward played the ball into O’Nien who controlled before prodding the ball into the back off the net.


Everything Sunderland did seemed to come through Maguire and after receiving the ball inside the centre circle, he drove at the South Shields defence before having his shot saved by Connell, before the ball deflected off the on running Watmore sending the ball out for goal kick.


Sunderland nearly had a third goal after an attack from Sunderland broke down and the ball came to Leadbitter halfway into the South Shields half, who struck from distance onto the bar with the keeper stranded.


South Shields had a rare second half-chance when substitute Alli struck from distance stinging the hands of young Anthony Patterson, so much he nearly spilled the ball into the net.


That was the final action of the game with it ending, South Shields 0-2 Sunderland.


South Shields Line-up: Connell, Baxter (c), Adams (Charlton 73), Brown (Wokoma 63), Morse, Turnbull (Daly 63), Thurston (Guy 73), Lowe (Thompson 69), Foley (Alli 63), Mason (Trialist 63), Gillies (Wright 69). Unused sub: Steavens.


Sunderland First Half Line-up: Burge, McLaughlin, Hackett, Loovens, Bainbridge, Robson, Kimpioka, Mcgeouch, Honeyman, Gooch, Wyke.


Sunderland Second Half Line-up: Patterson, Flanagan, Baldwin, Bainbridge (Hunter 63), O’Nien, Hume, Embleton, Maguire, Watmore, Grigg. Unused subs: Sammut, Diamond, Abdelkader


Words by Charlie Hodgson