SUNDERLAND Primary Schools Boys outgunned South Tyneside to remain impressive unbeaten leaders at the halfway point of the Harrison Cup campaign.
A 3-0 success at the Academy of Light took Sunderland to 16 points from a possible 18, with another league championship success in their sights.
Not even the loss of top scorer Brandon Goldsmith to illness could halt the Wearsiders, who started brightly and created a host of early chances.
Nathan Simpson raced clear and bore down on goal, but his shot was too close to the South Tyneside keeper, who made an important save.
Then James Harrison’s cross found Lewis Lukeman unmarked at the back post, but his effort looped across goal and wide of the post.
But the opening goal was not long delayed as Harry Gardiner produced a clinical finish after a well-worked passing move found him in space in the box.
After arguably Sunderland’s best first-half performance of the season, South Tyneside came more into the game on the restart, looking dangerous on the break.
But Sunderland increased their advantage 10 minutes into the second period, with Noel Partridge’s excellent cornfield ball setting up Lukeman, whose cross found Simpson, who squared the ball to Gardiner, who made no mistake from close to the penalty spot.
Five minutes later, the game was all but killed off with a third Sunderland goal. The ball broke to Lewis Connolly, on the edge of the area, and he crashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
South Tyneside pressured the home goal for the first time, and Sunderland got lucky when John Anderson wildly sliced a clearance just past his own post.
Soon after, Ben McDonald made a magnificent, diving save to keep out a penalty, then came to the rescue, charging out of goal to spread himself to block a shot.
Ellis Cowell missed Sunderland’s best chance of a fourth goal, right on time, when he screwed the ball badly past the post with only the keeper to beat.