JACK ROSS has admitted he is powerless to prevent Sunderland’s promising forward Joel Asoro from heading for Swansea City in a £2m deal.

The Black Cats, who fielded former Port Vale striker Anton Forrester trialist as Ross’ managerial reign started with a 1-0 defeat at Darlington, accepted the bid from the Swans and then opted against fielding him at Blackwell Meadows.

Ross would like to keep Asoro on Wearside to help the push for promotion in League One, but the player and his representatives have indicated a desire to play at the highest level he can so is set for Swansea talks.

Ross, who is thought to have offered a two-year deal to youngster Jack Bainbridge who was with Swansea Under-23s last season, said: “Joel was scheduled to play in the last half hour but things have moved on.

“Nothing has been agreed or finalised yet but it does look like he will leave the club. As a manager you don’t want to lose good players but I understood the position the club was in, the transition is only going to get bigger. I just think it was inevitable.”

As well as Swansea’s move for Asoro, Sunderland are also aware that Strasbourg are keen on signing Lamine Kone. At this stage the two clubs are still apart in terms of a fee and that has led to the French club threatening to walk away from discussions.

“We are no closer to new signings,” said Ross, who admitted Wahbi Khazri is close to a move to St Etienne. “A lot of time and energy has been on players who can leave the club, at the moment I have to do the best with what I have and then in the next ten days hopefully that will change.

“Khazri could go but nothing is agreed. It’s a challenging period but that’s the job. Lamine doesn’t want to be here, so has been left out. That’s where we are at.”

While Kone was not involved against Darlington, Ross handed first appearances to four new signings and a fifth was trialist Forrester.

The 24-year-old was asked to lead the line and stake a claim for a contract after his release from Port Vale at the end of last season.

There were also all eyes on the new-look Sunderland defence, with Reece James operating on the left and Tom Flanagan partnering Alim Ozturk – who had to withdraw with a knock on half an hour - at the heart of the Sunderland defence.

Darlington created a few decent openings early in the first half and, after Josef Wheatley had broke in behind with the first attack, the National League North side went ahead in nine minutes.

One of the Quakers’ new recruits Jordan Nicholson was allowed far too much to enter the penalty area and then he had the time to slide a cool finish inside the far post.

Despite a slow start, Sunderland could have still levelled when Ozturk, a centre-back up for an attack, hooked an effort towards the top corner where Luke Trotman did well to head off the line.

Lee Cattermole, the experienced figure in the heart of the midfield, glanced a corner against the foot of the far post with a header with minutes remaining of the first half, at a time when Sunderland enjoyed plenty possession in the final third.

Much of Sunderland’s better play went through Chris Maguire – making first appearances along with James, Flanagan and Ozturk, who went off injured – and Luke Molyneux down the flanks. Teenager Bali Mumba was lively in the middle.

Sunderland stepped things up after the restart and Mumba had an effort saved by Jonathan Maddison following some good Maguire wing play – and that led to a quick counter attack.

Just when it seemed Flanagan had things covered, he dawdled and lost possession which gifted Styche with the opportunity to chip Max Stryjek only for the ball to hit the inside of the post and roll to safety.

There was an outing in the final half hour for another summer recruit, Dylan McGeouch, along with the majority of substitutes, but Darlington still stayed strong defensively to keep Sunderland at bay.

The closest they came in the closing stages was when Josh Maja turned Flanagan’s knock down onto the top of the crossbar – and that was followed shortly after by a save from Stryjek when he did well to stop Wheatley’s effort.

Ross said: “Darlington played it like a competitive game and we played like a friendly, first half hour poor and after that we were better but we are still a long way from where we want to be.

“Anton only came in yesterday, trained, he started at Everton and been to Port Vale with injury issues. It is an opportunity to look at him, probably another look against Hartlepool on Saturday. We are very light so it’s an opportunity.”

DARLINGTON (4-3-2-1): Maddison; Trotman, Burn (Thompson 55) Galbraith, O'Hanlon; Nicholson (Collins 55), Wheatley, Hughes (Glover 63); Styche (Henshall 68), Saunders (Parnaby 81); Ainge (Vaulks 75). Subs: Bancroft, Morrison, Dunn, Abrol, Banks

SUNDERLAND (4-3-2-1): Ruiter; Matthews, Ozturk, Flanagan, James; Cattermole, Robson, Mumba; Molyneux, Maguire; Forrester. Subs (used): Stryjek (gk), Honeyman, Gooch, McGeouch, Maja, McManaman, Hume, Nelson, Love.