Sunderland boss handed double boost
Jan Kirchhoff and Jason Denayer pressed their claims for a first team start against Everton after successfully coming through 90 minutes against Rochdale.
Sunderland picked up their first point of the Checkatrade Trophy after a 1-1 draw with League One Dale - with the hosts picking up a bonus point after winning the penalty shoot-out.
Kirchhoff, who has been out with a hamstring strain since the penultimate match of pre-season, played the whole game along with Manchester City loannee Denayer.
David Moyes was watching on from the stands, with first team coach Robbie Stockdale taking charge of the game.
Stockdale said: “Jan is a good player and to get over that hurdle of 90 minutes can only do him good.
“We will see how he is over the next couple of days.
“It can only be a positive for the first team though and for Jan himself that he has that game under his belt.
“Jason too, this game was perfect for him.
“I spoke to them both before the game and said don’t think about this as just a normal development squad game, it is going to be real.
“You could tell the way their bench was getting animated with some of the things going on it meant lot to them.
“There is a fantastic prize at the end of the tournament and we are in it to win it.
“We didn’t get over the line but there were enough positives.”
Sunderland Under-23s took the lead in the 51st minute through 17-year-old Elliot Embleton’s superb left-footed strike from outside the area.
Dale captain Ian Henderson hit back seven minutes later from close range with the first group game ending all square.
Under the rules of the competition both teams get a point for the draw and Rochdale secured an extra point after winning the shoot-out 4-2.
Stockdale added: “It was our first step into the competition and the younger players will have learned a hell of a lot about real football.
“They won’t have come across that physical nature in the development league and the amount of long balls they had to contend with.
“Did they get it right every time? No they didn’t, the goal was a prime example.
“Going forward, the experience was fantastic for us, as a young group of players, to get a feel of what this level is all about and what it takes to go higher than this level.
“Disappointed to lose on penalties but by the strange nature of the competition we are off the mark.”
“The young players have to handle the physicality,” added Stockdale.
“We spoke before the game and they had to stand up to the physical challenge without the ball but to take the physical aspect out of the game when we have it.
“Using the ball quick and getting into positions that are difficult for them.
“The first 15 minutes we were caught in the headlights but after that we played some really good stuff. We didn’t do enough of the good stuff second half.
“If we had held onto the lead a little bit longer, we’d have settled again. The goal shook us a touch.”