Lincoln City 1 Sunderland 2: SAFC launch Papa John's Trophy defence with impress victory
A youthful Sunderland side began their Papa John’s Trophy defence with an impressive win at Lincoln City.
Wearing the captain’s armband Dan Neil marked an outstanding display with a fine early strike, before Stephen Wearne’s close range finish all settled the contest late on.
Wearne was one of four debutants on show in a strong display, which also Denver Hume complete 90 minutes in a hugely successful return to action.
Lewis Montsma’s late effort reduced the deficit but in truth Lee Johnson’s side had looked likely winners for most of a mature second-half showing.
The game had an unsurprisingly sedate feel at kick off but it took Neil less than two minutes to light it up.
There looked to be little danger when O’Brien cut inside, Lincoln with plenty of bodies behind the ball. But after shifting the ball with his first touch, Neil rifled a 25-yard half volley into the top corner with his second.
The sparse crowd was stunned, the goalkeeper entirely unmoved.
The Black Cats looked confident in the aftermath, moving the ball around swiftly and controlling possession. Michael Appleton had named a strong and experienced side, though, and through Chris Maguire they slowly began to offer a threat of their own.
Hakeeb Adelakun looked the most likely, drawing one decent stop from Burge before Ollie Younger made a fine block to deny him from close range.
On the half hour mark they began to turn the screw, and were unlucky not to score from a flurry of chances.
Longdon drew a fine save from Burge as he cut inside from the left, with Maguire then seeing the rebound deflected just wide of the far post. Lincoln took the following corner short, and Burge did superbly to fly up to his left to deny Adelakun’s fine strike.
Sunderland survived that wave of pressure and finished the half strongly, Will Harris going close on debut as he dropped onto a knockdown from O’Brien, his half-volley leaving Long scrambling before drifting just wide of the far post.
They went even closer to a second moments from the break, Harrison Sohna’s fine ball over the top finding O’Brien in space. He cut inside and curled a superb effort towards the far corner, which had Long beaten before striking the far post.
The two sides traded decent efforts at the start of the second, Taylor firing straight at Long following a fine move before Robson’s effort was deflected just over Burge’s bar as he drove forward from the left-back position.
Sunderland then forged their best opening yet when they broke the Lincoln press, Neil releasing Harris with a fine through ball before Long made a smart stop rushing off his line.
Lincoln were struggling to offer much, the visitors impressive in their game management as they moved the ball around with ease.
Neil was continuing to impress, and with just under 20 minutes to play their fourth debutant scored the second.
It was good play down the left and a fine ball into the box, which Long spilled under pressure from O’Brien. The ball was bouncing towards goal and Wearne had the simplest of finishes to mark his introduction in style.
Though Scully had a good chance to reduce the deficit in a rare moment when Sunderland were caught out on the counter late on, the Black Cats looked largely untroubled.
Montsma made for a possible nervy finish when rifling in a half volley from range, but there were just seconds for Sunderland to see out.
Sunderland’s only real late concern was that in an unlikely cameo up front, Luke O’Nien took a knock which forced his withdrawal just four minutes after his arrival.