Sunderland made the short trip to Victoria Park last Tuesday to face recently relegated League Two side Hartlepool United. Sunderland would bring their largest amount of supporters of the pre-season at around 3500 travelling red and white army.
Sunderland started with a relaxed approach and some may argue that the players thought it would be a 'walk in the park'. Pool had a golden opportunity but good goalkeeping birthday boy Max Stryjek and defending by Ivorian centre half Lamine Kone kept the tie scoreless. Tyias Browning burst down the wing to whip in a cross for James Vaughan's bicycle kick which sailed just over. Sunderland did have more chances and good footwork down the right by Joel Asoro found Josh Maja but goalkeeper Scott Loach made the save and again to deny the rebound from George Honeyman.
It took some good pressing of the centre half by promising Swede Asoro to eventually break the deadlock as he burst into the area and before winning a penalty. Vaughan was expected to take the spot kick, despite missing from 12 yards at St. Johnstone, but youngster Josh Maja continued his impressive pre-season and smashed the ball into the top right corner.
Second half saw Vaughan break but Loach came out and narrowed the angle, preventing the ex Huddersfield and Bury striker his first goal in red and white. Stryjek was called into action again to turn a glancing header wide. Adam Matthews failed to deal with Ryan Donaldson who smashed it past the poorly positioned Stryjek who had a fairly average night. The game was eventually wrapped up in the 90th minute through a sublime free kick taken by substitute Jeremain Lens. An unconvincing performance from Sunderland who would travel to West Yorkshire on the Saturday to League One promotion favourites Bradford City.
The travelling red and white army took 1000 fans to Valley Parade. Simon Grayson's men would come out of the blocks all guns blazing, also a start for 6 foot 5 trialist goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter. Sunderland opened the scoring early when Lens played a beautiful cross for striker Maja who latched onto the end and knocked it past the Bantams' goalkeeper. Lens doubled the lead in the 8th minute when he went on a solo run into the area before stopping, turning the defender and chipping the goalie with a truly amazing finish.
Sunderland continued their good start when full back Billy Jones knocked in goal number 3 from a rebounded Didier Ndong shot after more good work from Lens. Trialist Robbin Ruiter made a comfortable save from McCartan just before the break.
Second half saw Sunderland continue their good start without adding to their tally, though an injury blow came to striker Maja who went off injured early in the second period. Not long after the hour mark, midfielder Ndong fouled McCartan inside the area, Tony McMahon converted from 12 yards, sending Dutchman Ruiter the wrong way.
Ruiter was to the rescue of Sunderland again as he made two crucial saves to preserve the 3-1 scoreline. His second stop to deny Taylor particularly got the fans praise 5 minutes from time as the former Utrecht shotstopper denied Taylor from close range with his face. Bradford did eventually get a second through their own trialist but it was too little too late for the Bantams as Grayson's men earned their 4th pre-sason win.
Overall an impressive performance from trialist goalkeeper Ruiter who may solve Sunderland's goalkeeping crisis after Vito Mannone's departure.
Sunderland travel to Glanford Park tomorrow, the home of Scunthorpe United.