AFTER the doom and gloom of the most difficult week of the season, Sunderland’s young players stood tall and showed their resilience and quality to respond in style and notch one of their most impressive wins of the campaign.

A trip to Carrow Road is extremely testing at any stage of the season in the Championship but on the back of a demoralising 5-1 thumping at the hands of Alex Neil’s Stoke, a third defeat in a row, and with Tony Mowbray having to deal with yet more injury problems, it had the look of an incredibly daunting challenge for the Black Cats against a Norwich team who had found their feet in recent weeks.

But how Sunderland’s youngsters rose to the challenge. They got themselves in a winning position in the first half courtesy of Abdoullah Ba’s first goal in red and white and then saw it out superbly thanks to a brave and disciplined second half showing full of bottle.

To a man, Sunderland were excellent. In the first half, they forced Norwich into countless errors and caused no end of problems with their movement in attack, led by the brilliant Joe Gelhardt, who enjoyed his best display since his January arrival.

And in the second half they dug deep to keep out a Norwich side that had scored eight goals on their way to winning three successive games coming into this one.

And all the more impressive was the fact this display and win came on the back of yet more injury problems. After the Aji Alese hammer blow this week, Mowbray was dealt even more bad news. with both Amad Diallo and Alex Pritchard ruled out.

Thankfully, Mowbray expects both to be back in action in the next week, but it meant a squad tested to the limit in recent weeks was stretched even more, though the return to action of Lynden Gooch – a second half substitute – was a welcome boost.

Sunderland were bang at it and brighter from the off. Mowbray’s side didn’t look a team shy of confidence as they started on the front foot and carved out early chances for Gelhardt and Jack Clake before taking the lead on 15 minutes.

The opening goal was wonderfully worked. Roberts found Gelhardt, who played it into the path of Ba. There was still plenty of work to be done when the young Frenchman received the ball, but he baffled Grant Hanley with a couple of step-overs before expertly finding the bottom corner.

Just moments after the opener and with Norwich reeling, Sunderland should have doubled their lead. Mowbray this week admitted Gelhardt is suffering with a bit of crisis of confidence, which perhaps explains why he didn’t have the composure to pick his spot when he only had Gunn to beat, lashing straight at the relieved keeper.

In fairness to Gelhardt, he didn’t dwell on the miss. He was excellent throughout.

The only disappointment for Mowbray at half-time was the fact his side’s advantage wasn’t greater than a single goal. David Wagner had called on the home fans to play their part but the soundtrack in the stands was groans of frustration.

Wagner turned to his bench at the break and introduced his top scorer Josh Sargent, and the American almost made an instant impact when he charged down a Patterson clearance.

But Sunderland had no intention of sitting back and trying to soak up Norwich pressure. They continued to ask questions of the home defence, with former Norwich loanee Patrick Roberts troubling the Canaries with his quick feet.

The home side had no choice but to commit bodies forward, which played into Sunderland’s hands on the break. Clarke had a shot deflected just wide on the hour mark.

Sunderland had to stay disciplined. Dan Neil, Trai Hume, Danny Batth and Gooch were all booked by fussy referee Tim Robinson. The win was sealed with a kiss when O’Nien planted a smacker on the lips of Norwich’s Jacob Sorensen, who let his frustrations spill over and grabbed the Sunderland defender by the neck.