Pools were beaten by Sunderland in their latest pre-season friendly outing on Wednesday night but much of the talk at The Vic surrounded Sam Allardyce’s future as Black Cats’ boss.
Speculation had grown throughout the afternoon that he was set to be unveiled as Roy Hodgson’s successor with England and the PA announcer cheekily played ‘Three Lions’ prior to kick-off at The Vic.
Craig Hignett selected a strong starting line-up for the game, handing first home starts to summer signings Lewis Alessandra, Padraig Amond and Toto Nsiala.
If this was to be Allardyce’s final team selection as Sunderland boss then it was a powerful one too, with a number of the visitors big-hitters starting the game, including Younes Kaboul, Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe.
After a quiet opening period, the visitors burst in to life on seven minutes when Toto Nsiala failed to deal with a long ball forward and Defoe chased in behind to slot calmly past Trevor Carson to make it 1-0.
It could have got worse for Pools a minute later when another error in midfield allowed Defoe the opportunity to get off a shot from long-range but thankfully it dropped just wide of Carson’s post.
Defoe then turned provider, finding a ball through to Fabio Borini who was closed down and forced wide by Carson but still managed to clip a wonderful effort across goal which kissed the bar on its way wide.
As the quarter-hour mark was hit, the Black Cats did double their lead. Clever play by Wahbi Khazri on the right teed up Defoe, whose powerful shot crashed back off the post to Khazri to rifle low in to the net.
There were less than twenty minutes on the clock when ruthless Sunderland made it 3-0 – Borini saw his close-range shot well-blocked by Carson but when the ball came back in to the box from the right, Defoe lifted a beautiful shot past the Pools keeper and in to the top corner.
The game quietened down on the back of a mid-half drinks break, with Pools starting to probe but not really hurting the Sunderland rear-guard.
The visitors had a couple of chances to score a fourth goal on the stroke of half time. First Carson denied Jack Rodwell with a stunning save low to his left on the end of an excellent move down the left, before Lamine Kone’s clipped the bar with a powerful header with the last action of the half.
Pools made five changes at the break, while Sunderland swapped their entire eleven – and the visitors almost scored again within minutes of the restart but Rees Greenwood fired just over.
Craig Hignett’s men responded though and came close to opening their account for the night when a corner in from the left was glanced goalwards by Nathan Thomas, only for it to strike a post and land in the hands of keeper Jordan Pickford.
Michael Ledger tested Adam Bartlett with a low drive but the keeper was equal to it, before great play on the right of the box saw George Honeyman get to the byline but his low ball across evaded everyone.
Duncan Watmore’s pace was a constant threat and he used it to good effect to run at the Pools defence and fashion a chance but fired his effort high over the bar.
Nathan Thomas was causing similar problems at the other end though and his positive running earned Pools a series of corners but they couldn’t quite make the most of them.
Rhys Oates could have pulled one back when he made contact with a ball in to the box but Pickford did well to tip the effort over bar for a corner, which was wasted.
There were at least moments to cheer for the Pools fans in the 6,021 crowd in the second half but there was no reward and it was the Black Cats who took the plaudits from the game.
Full Time: Pools 0 Sunderland 3
Pools: Carson (Bartlett 46), Richards (Magnay 46), Nsiala (Donnelly 69), Bates (Harrison 63), Carroll (Nearney 69), Featherstone (Green 69), Deverdics (Orrell 75), Woods (Hawkins 46), Laurent (Thomas 46), Alessandra (Oates 63), Amond (Paynter 46).
Sunderland First Half: Mannone, Jones, Van Aanholt, Kaboul, Kone, Cattermole, Lens, Rodwell, Defoe, Khazri, Borini.
Sunderland Second Half: Pickford, Robson, Beadling, Ledger, Honeyman, N’Zogbia, Greenwood, Gooch, Watmore, Maja.
6,021 (3,859 Sunderland)Attendance: