SUNDERLAND Primary Schools Boys proved their character to come through a tough test unbeaten and unscathed.
The defending Harrison Cup champions edged home 3-2 in a hard-fought encounter away to Redcar and Cleveland – their longest journey of the season – twice rallying from behind to grab the points.
The home side opened the scoring when the Sunderland defence failed to deal with a corner kick, which enabled a Redcar player to head home past a helpless Ben McDonald.
Sunderland quickly began to get a foothold in the game and soon equalised when a cross from Lewis Lukeman was turned into the net by a Redcar defender for an own goal.
Parity was to be shortlived however when Redcar regained the lead. After the Sunderland defence twice failed to clear their lines, the ball found its way to a Redcar player at the edge of the area and his shot beat McDonald all ends up as it flew into the top corner of the goal.
The Teessiders were in the driving seat and only a fantastic fingertip save from Sunderland keeper McDonald prevented a 3-1 deficit at half-time.
After strong words at the break, the Wearsiders started the second half a lot brighter and Lewis Connolly’s move from defence into midfield, 10 minutes into the second half, helped the visitors gain control of the middle of the pitch.
Despite this, Redcar remained dangerous from set pieces and only a fantastic triple save from captain-for-the-day McDonald prevented the hosts from extending their lead – he produced a point blank save from a Redcar player and then reacted quickly to block a further two attempts before the ball was hacked clear by a desperate defence.
Buoyed by this, Sunderland raced up the other end and equalised when a through ball released Harry Gardiner, who confidently dispatched a shot across the Redcar keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Better was to follow minutes later when Gardiner did superbly to get to the byline and deliver a tempting cross which leading goalscorer Brandon Goldsmith attacked with a thumping header that gave the Redcar keeper no chance.
The game continued to ebb and flow in the closing stages, but, with neither team able to add to the scoring, Sunderland held out for three valuable points – the perfect boost ahead of half-term.
Sunderland’s next match is at home to South Tyneside, a fixture which marks the halfway point of the season.