JACK ROSS has revealed Sunderland are confident of signing a player to boost the “defensive area” within the next 24 hours following Donald Love’s departure from the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats boss was speaking after watching his team start pre-season with a win over South Shields, where a 13th minute strike from Ethan Robson was followed by a second nine minutes into the second half from Luke O’Nien.

Sunderland handed debuts to summer signings Lee Burge and Conor McLaughlin at Mariners Park before Ross made a full team of changes – and he would hope to bring more fresh faces in over the next few weeks.

He has described that Love’s exit is likely to see a third new first team signing before the weekend, although he would not reveal the identity. He is known to have been interested in Walsall midfielder George Dobson among others.

Ross said: “Hopefully over the course of tomorrow we will add one in the defensive area, which will strengthen us. We have been patient in the recruitment, careful.

“There’s two sides to it, we have shown how Conor and Lee were brought to the club, they have given us attributes we didn’t have, but we have younger ones who have come in like Elliot Embleton, Denver Hume, Ethan Robson … and with Donald leaving it will allow us to move forward.”

Love’s three years on Wearside are over after he reached an agreement with Sunderland to have his contract come to an early end. The 24-year-old still had a year remaining on his deal worth around £450,000.

Shrewsbury Town are looking to hand him a quick chance to return to football and if he signs then he will face Sunderland in League One next season. He moved to the North-East as part of a £5.5m double deal involving Paddy McNair from Manchester United when David Moyes was in charge in 2016.

McLaughlin slotted nicely in on the right of a three man defence against South Shields, while Burge performed reasonably well in goal before both men were replaced at the break.

Embleton was one of those to have been introduced for the second half and that was because his contract stand-off is almost over. He had not signed the new terms offered to him.

But Ross, who said Benjamin Kimpioka is still to extend his deal, said: “Elliot will sign his contract at the beginning of next week. That’s what we need. The paperwork is just being drawn up, which is good. I am really pleased.

“I was keen to see him stay at the club. If he ever leaves us then I think he should give himself an opportunity to play for Sunderland. I see him now as a first team member. That has changed from last season. It is now about players taking that opportunity and he did well tonight.”

Kimpioka had already been direct with his running at Mariners Park before he was involved in the opener.

The Swedish Under-21 international, who has entered the final 12 months of his contract, allowed a ball to roll into the path of midfielder Robson. He hammered into the top corner beyond goalkeeper Liam Connell.

Burge was forced to turn away Gary Brown’s downward header and a David Foley effort before half-time, when only centre-back Jack Bainbridge survived the changes.

Sunderland’s second arrive when Duncan Watmore wriggled his way through the penalty box 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.