As far as EFL Cup first round ties go, this one took a while to get going but it sprang into life in a game where everything seemed to happen between Sunderland and Port Vale.

Lee Johnson made eight changes for the game following their win against Wigan handing starts to a number of youngsters in Ollie Younger, Ellis Taylor, Josh Hawkes and Anthony Patterson while Alex Pritchard was given his debut.

It was the first time in over 500 days that Vale Park saw supporters in the stand and both sets of fans were in high voice for the game.

Darrell Clarke was celebrating his 500th game in management and he was just as loud as anyone in the ground in the Vale technical area.

It was a fairly quiet opening to the game but the ball was in the net on 13 minutes. Anthony Patterson clashed into a crowd of bodies when he came out to collect a corner. The ball was dropped to the feet of defender Leon Legge who lashed home but the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Sunderland’s keeper.

Pritchard’s class was on show with a number of neat touches and passes that opened up space for Sunderland’s attack. However, it was proving to be a tough task to make the most of the passes.

Pritchard carved a great opening for young Jack Diamond with a defence splitting pass. Diamond kill the ball on the edge of the box and he tried to dink the onrushing keeper Aidan Stone but his effort rolled just wide of the right-hand post.

Hawkes was next to have a go but his jinking run inside the box was finished with a low drive that was just about palmed away by keeper Stone. The ball almost squirmed under him as the ball rolled behind for a corner.

Former Manchester United striker James Wilson had the lions share of chances for Vale in the first half with the best one coming from Mal Benning’s cross from the left. After killing the ball and carving out some room on the edge of the box, he lashed over the bar to the disappointment of the fans.

The breakthrough came just before half-time with Pritchard the architect and Hawkes the finisher. Pritchard drove on into the Vale half and threaded another lovely pass through to his left to find Hawkes who didn’t need much of an invitation. One touch out of his feet and a low drive with his left foot so the ball nestle into the back of the net. A brilliant moment for the 22-year-old who scored his first goal in Sunderland colours.

It didn’t take long for the Black Cats to double their advantage when a ball over the top found Diamond who skipped passed the goalkeeper and was brought down in the box. The Vale players claimed the keeper got a hand to the ball but referee Sam Allison had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

The penalty kick was delayed by an over-indulged fan who had invaded the pitch and had the freedom of Vale Park for around three minutes. A moment of glory he revelled.

After the fan eventually made his way off the pitch, Aiden O’Brien was on hand to drill the ball home with the right with keeper Stone guessing the right way but the shot was too powerful for him to keep out.

Vale weren’t going to give up on a place in the second round of the EFL Cup and found a route back into the game when David Worrall’s low cross was intended for Jamie Proctor. Bailey Wright and Patterson were both trying to intervene and from their challenges, the ball managed to squirm back Proctor’s way and he obliged with a turn and finish right next to the post.

The players were then given a few minutes break when one of the floodlights at Vale Park failed. The players carried on for a few more minutes after the officials had a quick consultation and the problem was fixed. It was all going on at Vale Park.

Buoyed by their earlier goal, Vale were inches from an equaliser when Worrall chested down a cross to the back post and rifled low only for Wright to slide in and deflect wide.

The game developed a bit of an edge with Callum Doyle and Ollie Younger booked in quick succession but the nerves were getting to Sunderland and they had eight minutes of stoppage time to hold on.

Patterson kept them in the game with a huge save. Tom Pett’s point blank header was tipped over in chance that Vale fans were certain it was going in.

Sunderland ran the clock down in the corner and the whistle blew to relief from the players who had to work hard for their place in the second round. All in all it was a good night for Lee Johnson and his men with the manager striking the balance of squad rotation and getting the win.

Sunderland XI: Anthony Patterson 6; Tom Flanagan 6, Bailey Wright 7 ©, Ollie Younger 6, Dan Neil 6; Luke O’Nien 6, Josh Hawkes 8, Jack Diamond 6 (Aiden McGeady 63’), Ellis Taylor 7 (Callum Doyle 76’), Alex Pritchard 8 (Will Grigg 63’); Aiden O’Brien 7

Subs: Lee Burge, Corry Evans, Callum Doyle, Lynden Gooch, Ross Stewart, Will Grigg, Aiden McGeady

Port Vale XI: Aidan Stone, Dan Jones, Brad Walker, Leon Legge, Nathan Smith, David Worrall, Ben Garrity, James Wilson, Mal Benning, Jamie Proctor, Tom Pett

Subs: James Gibbons, Alex Hurst, Ryan Johnson, Lewis Cass, Aaron Martin, David Amoo, Eden Bailey

Goals: Josh Hawkes (40’), Aiden O’Brien (50’ pen), Jamie Proctor (67’)

Yellow cards: Jack Diamond, (20’), David Worrall (49’), Ellis Taylor (52’), Callum Doyle (85’), Ollie Younger (87’)

Referee: Sam Allison

Attendance: 3,267

Man of the match: Josh Hawkes