Reece James completed a planned 45-minute outing on Monday evening for Sunderland under-23s as he steps up his recovery from injury.
The full-back, who joined the Black Cats from Wigan Athletic over the summer, has been out for most of pre-season after picking up a groin injury while at the club’s training camp in Portugal.
While the former Manchester United man did manage to feature against Darlington in the Lads’ opening friendly, he has since been unable to feature until now as he looks to get back into the manager’s reckoning in time for their busy schedule with four games in nine days.
“It is the first time I’ve been out there in a while,” he said.
“I originally picked up the injury while I was out in Portugal after just two days.
“I wanted to dig through and hope that it settled down. That wasn’t the case, though, I had a tear in my groin, so I probably did the wrong thing by playing in the game against Darlington.
“I wanted to play at the time but unfortunately these things happen.
“I have had to work hard behind the scenes with the physio and the medical staff and hopefully I can come back strong.
“That was why I wanted to play for the under-23s on Monday. I wanted some minutes and to get used to match awareness. You forget about certain things when you are out for a while like positional awareness and defensive play, so it was good to get my brain going again."
He continued: “I feel like I’ve taken a step forward now and hopefully I can show the manager what I can do in these next four games if I can get a chance.”