SUNDERLAND Primary Schools Boys have one hand on the league championship trophy, the Harrison Cup, after beating title rivals Redcar and Cleveland 6-1.
The crucial clash at Newbottle started evenly, but Sunderland grabbed the breakthrough when leading goalscorer Joseph Ridley ghosted in from the left and across the edge of the box before firing a quick shot straight across the visiting keeper and into the bottom corner of the net.
Redcar quickly equalised with a looping header over keeper Alex Bates, but the visitors’ celebrations had hardly died down when Sunderland regained the lead.
Excellent interplay down the right wing between Jack Wilkinson and Ethan Hill saw a cross reach skipper Ryan Bruce, who crashed an unstoppable effort past the keeper to restore the hosts’ advantage.
It was soon 3-1 when Bruce fired in a free-kick from outside the box which the keeper failed to hold and Ridley pounced on the rebound .
Before half-time, Ridley completed his hat-trick when he coolly fired home from the penalty spot after being upended in the area by a late challenge.
Sunderland needed only five minutes of the second half to go 5-1 up, with James Clark’s superb cross evading the Redcar defence. The ball was returned into the box to find Clark, who had continued his run into the area, and he fired home from close range through a crowd of defenders.
Redcar remained under the cosh, but they were dangerous on the break and Sunderland’s defence, well marshalled by Andrew Nelson, had to work hard to repel the threat.
Sunderland added a late sixth goal when Hill received his reward for another fine performance down the right wing - he latched onto a through ball and beat the keeper at the second attempt.
That victory followed an 8-0 demolition of North Tyneside Boys, with hat-tricks from Jack Wilkinson and Ridley supported by a Bruce brace.
The Wearsiders have won eight out of eight games in the Harrison Cup and now lead Redcar by eight points with only four games to play.
Sunderland are next in action against Washington Boys on March 29. Victory would leave the boys one point short of retaining the title they lost in agonising fashion to Chester-le-Street last season.