SUNDERLAND head coach Lee Johnson remains confident of making “a couple of signings” before the start of the new Championship season.

The Black Cats continued their pre-season preparations with an emphatic 4-0 win at Harrogate Town today, and have two more warm-up matches before the real business begins with the opening League One fixture against Wigan Athletic in a fortnight’s time.

While today’s victory was well deserved, the game at Harrogate’s Wetherby Road ground nevertheless exposed some of the gaps in Johnson’s current squad, with the Sunderland head coach forced to name midfielders Carl Winchester and Dan Neil at full-back.

Addressing the lack of natural full-back options is a key priority, with the Black Cats having been heavily linked with Nottingham Forest’s Jordan Gabriel and Exeter City’s Josh Key, and Johnson is hoping there will be progress in the next week or so.

“We're working really hard behind the scenes and a lot of that is to put yourself in a position where you've got the options,” said the Sunderland boss. “They're (Gabriel and Key) not our players and so I can't talk about them, as you know.

“You have a list, sometimes five, ten, and you've got to make sure it's a quality list and that it fits with what you're trying to do. They've got to be affordable, available and fit the club's philosophy.

“It's not easy but to be fair, I do feel like we are getting there in a couple of positions. My hope is that in the next week to ten days we're able to bring a couple in.”

Johnson is also confident that Aiden McGeady will be available for the opening game of the season, despite the Irishman having to miss today’s game after having an injection in his knee.

“McGeady had his injection, with his tendonitis in the knee, so that pushes him out for eight or nine days,” he said. “That was always in the plan. We tried to build his base fitness up, so it should be easier to then push him back again going into the season.”

Johnson expressed sympathy for the 1,000-plus Sunderland supporters who had bought tickets for today’s game, only to then be told last night that the match would be taking place behind-closed-doors.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I felt so sorry for the Sunderland fans. I know 1,000 of them, or whatever it was, would have spent money on today. They would have spent money on train fares – we put this fixture on because it’s a great place to come and have a weekend as well, and we thought a lot of people would do that, which they have.

“I just empathise with them because it’s so frustrating. In my opinion, even if they’d had to have reduced capacity, they should have let our fans in because of the costs they would have incurred.”