Kilmarnock 1 Sunderland 2

CONNOR Wickham opened his goalscoring account for Sunderland as the Black Cats cruised to a comfortable win at Kilmarnock.

Kilmarnock v Sunderland - Sunderland's Craig Gardner gets trapped between and Kilmarnock's Garry Hay and Patrick Ada

CONNOR Wickham opened his goalscoring account for Sunderland as the Black Cats cruised to a comfortable win at Kilmarnock.

And, while the £8m summer capture from Ipswich will never score an easier goal than the four-yard tap-in he had at Rugby Park, the 18-year-old still showed enough in his 32-minute substitute appearance to suggest that he will be a quality addition to Steve Bruce's squad.

Wickham's goal 13 minutes from time proved the winner, after Stephane Sessegnon's first-half opener was cancelled out by Garry Hay's pinpoint free-kick early in the second half.

And it capped a solid performance from Sunderland as they continue to step up their pre-season preparations.

The only negative on the night came when Phil Bardsley was substituted in the first half with a groin problem, although Black Cats boss Bruce said afterwards that the injury was minor and the substitution was only a precaution.

Bruce gave debuts to his two remaining summer buys yet to appear in pre-season, with goalkeeper Keiren Westwood and centre-back Wes Brown both named in the starting line-up.

Westwood had missed the first four friendlies as he recuperated after a shoulder operation, while Brown has been held back up to now after suffering a hip problem soon after arriving from Manchester United.

There was also a first start of the summer for last season's top scorer Asamoah Gyan, given extra time to recover after his involvement in Ghana's African Cup of Nations qualifiers this summer.

Kilmarnock, whose Scottish Premier League campaign is already under way and began with a 1-1 draw at Dundee United at the weekend, took the opportunity to field three unnamed trialists – a left-back, a right winger and a striker – in their starting line-up with manager Kenny Shiels keen to bolster his squad.

Sunderland were in charge right from the off and they virtually set up camp in the Killie half for the first 30 minutes.

Gyan was inches away from making contact with a Sessegnon cross with only six minutes on the clock, and five minutes later Gyan sent an acrobatic shot just wide after Phil Bardsley had picked him out from the right flank.

Sessegnon tested Killie keeper Anssi Jaakola from 20 yards just before the quarter-hour mark.

And Jaakola made an even better stop on 20 minutes when he blocked a low shot from Gyan after the £13m man had collected a pass from Sessegnon in the box and executed a couple of step-overs. Gyan looked lively on his first outing and should have opened the scoring.

Again, man of the match Sessegnon did the damage, cutting into the penalty area from the left and then squaring to his left for the unmarked Gyan but his sidefooted finish was too close to Jaakola, who nevertheless made a fine stop to push the ball to safety.

Bosman signing David Vaughan sent a left-foot shot whistling just over the top left-hand corner but it was not until the 37th minute that Killie's resistance was finally broken. Lee Cattermole outmuscled one of the home players and played the pass forward for Sessegnon.

The Benin international could not bring the ball under control but centre-back Patrick Ada miskicked his clearance on the edge of the penalty area and Sessengnon was onto it in a flash, collecting and then clipping a low right-foot shot past Jaakola from 16 yards.

Killie managed to trouble Westwood only once in the first period, with Gary Fisher hitting a 25-yard shot which the Republic of Ireland international saved comfortably diving low to his left.

There was nothing that the former Coventry man could do four minutes into the second half, however, as the Scots got back on level terms.

The Black Cats conceded a cheap free-kick just outside the right-hand corner of the box and Hay stepped up to curl the ball over the wall and beyond the diving Westwood into the top right-hand corner.

At the other end, Brown got up to head a Seb Larsson corner goalwards but Jaakola was down quickly to save on the line.

And Larsson brought another fine stop from Jaakola, with the flying Finn leaping to his left to claw away a 25-yard free-kick from the former Birmingham man. Wickham had a shot blocked on the line 15 minutes from time.

But the England Under-21 man could hardly miss the gift that came his way two minutes later.

Ahmed Elmohamady delivered a low cross from the right and Wickham, who was completely unmarked at the far post, had a four-yard tap-in.

KILMARNOCK (starting XI): Jakkola, Bujis, O'Leary, Ada, Trialist, Trialist, Fisher, Hay, Silva, Trialist, Heffeman.

SUNDERLAND: Westwood, Bardsley (Elmohamady 36), Ferdinand, Brown (Laing 58), Richardson (Colback 67), Larsson, Cattermole (Gardner 67), Vaughan, Malbranque (Wickham 58), Sessegnon, Gyan (Dong-Won 58). Subs (not used): Mignolet

Referee: Steve Conroy Attendance: 2,333


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