Darlington 0 Sunderland 4
STEVE BRUCE expects to find out within 48 hours if Peter Crouch wants to become a Sunderland player.
After watching his side secure a comfortable 4-0 pre-season victory over Darlington, Bruce’s only concern was a potentially serious knee injury to second-half goalscorer Paul McShane.
“It’s a suspected cartilage injury, it’s as serious as that,” revealed Bruce. “That’s what our fear is, he’ll have a scan in the morning and we’ll assess the damage.”
The injury to the Ireland international is a setback for Bruce but a failure to land Crouch, his top striking target, would be a serious blow.
The manager met Crouch yesterday and attempted to persuade the England international to move to Wearside rather than join Fulham.
“It was good to see him up here – let’s keep our fingers crossed,’’ he admitted.
“I believe there’s some competition for him but we’re hopeful because he’s the type of player who would signal our intention of where we want to be.
“We’ll see what develops in the next 24 to 48 hours. I’m always an optimist and I hope we get him. We’ve done our best, the club have backed me and if we pull it off, it will be a terrific signing.”
Andy Reid was credited with scoring the opening goal of the Bruce era but his cross into the area, after dispossessing right back Ben Starosta, took a deflection into the net off Matty Plummer.
Sunderland doubled their advantage courtesy of some sloppy goalkeeping by David Knight who fumbled a routine catch and Kieran Richardson pounced to fire home from close range.
McShane’s headed goal from a Carlos Edwards left wing corner and Roy O’Donovan’s late strike sealed an emphatic victory for Bruce in his first competitive game in charge of the Wearsiders.
Kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes after traffic problems on the A19, but when Sunderland’s 4,000 travelling supporters eventually arrived they almost filled the West Stand to bring a lively atmosphere to The Northern Echo Darlington Arena.
Colin Todd welcomed back Plummer, Craig James and Gary Smith into the starting XI after the trio missed Monday’s win at Blyth Spartans.
He also kept faith with experienced strike pair Dean Windass and Lee Thorpe, who almost continued his pre-season scoring run when his low shot forced Trevor Carson to make a smart save on the half hour.
Bruce made eight changes at the break with youngsters David Meyler, Jack Colback and Martyn Waghorn, who Todd is keen to take on loan to the Quakers, all given a chance to impress.
Todd included trialists Paul Arnison and Newcastle academy player Mark Donninger in his squad, but Darren Williams didn’t make an appearance after the club failed to get clearance for him to play.
The former Sunderland and Hartlepool defender watched the game from the stand.
Waghorn’s appearance in the second half offered potency to the visiting attack and, along with Jordan Henderson and an impressively slimline Reid, was one of the Black Cats more effective performers.
Skipper Ian Miller, Plummer and Thorpe were the pick of the home side who were given a stern test.
“We knew it would be tough,” noted Todd who is working to bring a striker on loan before the visit of Newcastle tomorrow afternoon. “A couple of goals were from our mistakes which is disappointing but we’ll learn from a game like that.”
Sunderland have had a £3m offer rejected for Crystal Palace’s 18-year-old right back Nathaniel Clyne, according to sources in London. The youngster established himself in Neil Warnock’s side last season and is regarded as one of the hottest properties outside the Premier League, attracting interest from Arsenal and Portsmouth.
Meanwhile, Daryl Murphy’s proposed move to Hull has been called off after he failed to agree personal terms.
DARLINGTON (4-4-2): Knight (Liversedge 63), Starosta (Arnison 50), James, G Smith (Bennett 61), Plummer, Miller, Convery, Lumsdon, Thorpe, Windass (Gray 50), J Smith. Subs (not used): Donninger, Groves
SUNDERLAND (4-5-1): Carson, Bardsley (McShane 46), McCartney (Anderson 46), Ferdinand (Nosworthy 46), Collins, Malbranque (Edwards 46), Leadbitter (Colback 46), Henderson (O’Donovan 62) Reid (Meyler 46), Richardson (Waghorn 46), Healy (Stokes 46) Sub (not used): Misiewicz.