SUNDERLAND'S pre-season injury hoodoo struck again last night when left-back George McCartney was stretchered off just after the hour mark in Portugal against Brighton.
Steve Bruce will assess the extent of McCartney's problem this morning but the latest blow to his squad is likely to force the Sunderland boss to step up his search for a specialist left-back with Wigan pair Maynor Figueroa and Charles N'Zogbia on his radar.
The injury to McCartney follows Craig Gordon's broken arm and Lee Cattermole's groin problem that have disrupted Sunderland's pre-season campaign.
The Northern Ireland international's second spell with the Wearsiders has been fraught with injury and personal problems, and Bruce has made no secret of his desire to bolster the left side of his defensive ranks.
Kieran Richardson slotted in following McCartney's withdrawal during last night's friendly, but with Michael Liddle the only other recognised left-back in the squad Bruce will be eager to recruit reinforcements.
After struggling to break down Darlington last Saturday Sunderland endured another frustrating encounter in the Algarve against League One Brighton.
Bruce fielded an experimental starting line-up that included front pairing Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones with 20-year-old striker Martyn Waghorn supplementing the attacking threat. Trevor Carson was handed a chance to impress and played the full 90 minutes in goal while Academy of Light product Jack Colback started in central midfield.
But it was Brighton who offered the greater threat in the final third and Gus Poyet's side had the ball in the net after only ten minutes only for the referee to rule out Glen Murray's header for an infringement.
But the Seagulls striker would not be denied and broke the deadlock from the penalty spot just before halftime after Bolo Zenden was judged to have handballed.
Fraizer Campbell, who came on midway through the second half as replacement for Zenden, spared Sunderland's blushes when he turned home Henderson's well executed free-kick in the 86th minute.
SUNDERLAND: Carson; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Kilgallon, McCartney (Malbranque 62); Waghorn (Liddle 75), Colback, Richardson, Zenden (Henderson 59); Jones (Campbell 59), Bent. Subs (not used: Mignolet.