Sunderland boss Lee Johnson was full of praise for his academy-filled side following their 2-1 win away at Lincoln City in the Papa John’s Trophy on Tuesday evening. 

After being on the wrong end of a 4-0 thumping at Portsmouth over the weekend, Sunderland would’ve been eager to bounce back in the Papa John’s Trophy in order to regain some confidence back in the team.

Johnson opted to go with a side made up of half academy players and half first-team players who are experiencing a lack of game time.

Young midfielder Stephen Warne scored on his Sunderland debut as a second half substitute following a first-half goal by 19-year-old academy graduate Dan Neil, both helping the Black Cats to three points to begin their League Trophy campaign at the LNER Stadium.

In an all round successful night for the Sunderland academy, Johnson was mainly pleased with how they settled in and played with confidence against a side full of senior and experienced EFL players.

Sign up to our weekly newsletter – EFL news straight to your inbox!

“I was really, really pleased with the boys, both in terms of half are an under 23’s side and half are a first-team side that needed minutes,” he told the club’s media after the game.

“I thought the best thing about it really was the cohesiveness of the academy players, you can tell we’ve worked on the philosophy through the club and you can tell they stepped in and played with good players and that means they’ve showed their quality. 

“You heard the Lincoln manager Michael Appleton before the game talking about how he’s going to play his A team and I think he said it was our B, C or D team, but whatever team we put out we want it to be competitive, we want to play our way.

“Especially after Saturday and I know that seems a long way off now, but I think this game is nice, it was a real win for the academy, for the academy coaches and the players that get an opportunity to play in front of a crowd, and I really enjoyed it.” 

After that exciting performance, Johnson will no doubt be looking to involve his academy players in future league games.

Sunderland’s next schedule League One fixture v Oxford United was postponed last week and so the Black Cats next find themselves in action in the Papa John’s Trophy once again, at home to Manchester United U21 next week.