SUNDERLAND handed a couple of debuts to new signings as Jack Ross’ team started pre-season with a 2-0 win at North Sea neighbours South Shields.

A goal in each half from Ethan Robson and Luke O’Nien proved enough to defeat Graham Fenton’s Bet Victor Northern Premier side at Mariners Park.

Sunderland’s two first team summer signings got their first taste of action, with Lee Burge starting between the posts and Conor McLaughlin on the right of three at the back.

Jack Ross, the Black Cats boss, was always going to make a raft of changes at the break and he did, ten of them, but before that he watched his team edge ahead.

McLaughlin is known for an ability to play on the right of a three or at right-back having signed from Millwall and he was given a busy start, coping well, from South Shields’ advances through Joshua Gillies down that side.

But it was at the other end where Sunderland soon got things moving. The lively Benjamin Kimpioka had already been direct with his running a few times before he was involved in the opener inside 13 minutes.

The Swedish Under-21 international, yet to sign his new deal, allowed a ball to roll into the path of midfielder Robson. He hammered into the top corner beyond goalkeeper Liam Connell.

Goalkeeper Burge, making his first outing since leaving Coventry behind after 14 years, wasn’t posed too many questions during that period because Sunderland tended to control possession.

But he was forced to turn away Gary Brown’s downward header that bounced towards his top corner after half an hour, and he would have been beaten had Dillon Morse not headed the rebound wide.

Soon after that Burge also had to be alert to parry away David Foley’s powerful effort that was destined for the net as South Shields started to believe they could upset their League One counterparts.

There was also a low Nathan Lowe drive from distance that didn’t trouble Burge, as Sunderland’s bright opening soon dipped and that was followed by the big changes at the break.

Only centre-back Jack Bainbridge, given a half-time pep talk on the pitch, survived the changes, and there was more of a first team feel about the team after the restart with the exception of goalkeeper Anthony Patterson replacing Burge.

Midfielder Elliot Embleton, who is still not believed to have signed the new contract offered to him, was inches away from adding to Sunderland’s lead when he hit wide from 12 yards seconds after the restart.

Sunderland’s second did arrive in the 54th minute. Duncan Watmore wriggled his way through the penalty box, beating a couple of men, before his pass into the centre of the area was powered inside Connell’s left-hand post by O’Nien.

Grant Leadbitter crashed an effort against the bar but Sunderland had to make do with a two-goal win on a night when South Shields competed and built up their fitness levels too.

Shields: Connell; Baxter, Adams (Charlton 72), Brown (Wokoma 61), Morse, Turnbull (Alli 61), Thurston (Guy 72), Lowe (Wright 69), Foley (Daly 61), Mason (Trialist 61), Gillies (Thompson 69). Subs (not used): Steavens.

Sunderland (first half): Burge; McLaughlin, Loovens, Bainbridge; Gooch, Robson, McGeouch, Hackett; Honeyman, Kimpioka; Wyke. Patterson, Hunter, Sammut, Diamond, Abdelkader.

Sunderland (second half): Patterson; Flanagan, Baldwin, Bainbridge (Hunter 62); O’Nien, Embleton, Leadbitter, Hume; Watmore, Maguire; Grigg.