Sunderland Primary Schools Boys miss out in Harrison Cuo play-offs, but Easter tournament success is the highlight

Sunderland Primary Schools Boys 2016-17 Back row: Marty Richards (Assistant Manager), Jack Patterson, Adam Anderson, Nathan Musgrove, Will Murphy, Alfie Burnside, Jack Waller, Chris Lindstedt (Manager) Front row: John Felton-Doyle, Kailem Beattie, Riley Mouat, Callum Hughes, Alfie Hodgson (Missing from photo Tye Dobbs and Callum Stanton)
Sunderland Primary Schools Boys 2016-17 Back row: Marty Richards (Assistant Manager), Jack Patterson, Adam Anderson, Nathan Musgrove, Will Murphy, Alfie Burnside, Jack Waller, Chris Lindstedt (Manager) Front row: John Felton-Doyle, Kailem Beattie, Riley Mouat, Callum Hughes, Alfie Hodgson (Missing from photo Tye Dobbs and Callum Stanton)
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Sunderland Primary Schools Boys missed out in their defence of the Harrison Cup in the new-look play-offs.

The city lads finished the league programme in second place after the first round of eight games.

That took them into a five-strong group to compete for the prestigious Harrison Cup, while the bottom four played off for the Harry Charlton Trophy.

Having opened the second group stage with consecutive draws against Stockton (1-1) and Darlington (3-3), the boys travelled to face old adversaries Chester-le-Street really needing a win to retain any chance of retaining the trophy.

Sunderland made the best possible start when persistent play from John Felton-Doyle saw him fire home and. in the early exchanges. it was all Sunderland.

When the referee awarded the boys a penalty shortly after, Alfie Hodgson was brave enough to step up to take it only to see the Chester-le-Street keeper beat out his effort.

The hosts equalised just after the interval when a great strike from the edge of the area flew across Nathan Musgrove and into the far corner of the net.

Sunderland were extremely unlucky not to regain lead when a sublime free-kick from Jack Waller beat the wall only to rebound back off the crossbar and into play.

With no further scoring, the game finished at 1-1 for a third consecutive draw and a sixth stalemate from 11 games in the competition.

With Middlesbrough clinching the league, the final game against the champions at Nissan saw the boys needing a win to secure runners-up spot in the table.

Again they made a superb start, when Callum Hughes fired them in front with his 20th goal of the season.

Two poor defensive mistakes, however, led to the visitors leading 2-1 at the interval.

Any hopes of getting back into the game were dashed within minutes of the restart when a defensive mix-up left keeper Musgrove helpless to prevent a third goal for the visitors.

Despite working hard for the rest of the half, the boys never really looked like getting back into the game against a strong opposition and the game finished 3-1, meaning that the squad finished the play-off group in fifth place after three draws and a defeat.

Middlesbrough also ended the city lads’ interest in the Derwent and Medomsley Trophy at the quarter-final stage at Castletown Primary.

Despite falling two goals behind, Hughes reduced the arrears shortly before half-time when he latched onto a through ball to finish confidently.

When Kailem Beattie fired home early in the second half to equalise, it was very much game on and, in an excellent advert for district football, the game ebbed and flowed from one end to the other with both sides looking likely to score.

The Teessiders, though, regained the lead with a excellent left-footed strike from outside the area which whistled past Tye Dobbs in the home goal.

With Sunderland pushing on for an equaliser, the visitors made the game safe with a scrambled effort after the home defence failed to clear a corner.

Despite failing to win either league or cup honours, the boys did return triumphant from the Newcastle Schools FA Easter Festival.

In the group stage, a goal from Felton-Doyle secured a 1-0 win over Leeds, then Beattie and Waller set up a 2-0 victory against Stockton before East Northumberland were beaten 4-0, with Hughes, Waller, captain Jack Patterson and a screamer from Riley Mouat doing the damage.

The final group game was goalless against host club Red House Farm. In the semi-final, against South Northumberland, Hughes and Waller, deep in extra time, won the day.

Sunderland then won a tight final against York in the dying seconds, Waller flicking home a memorable winner.

Manager Chris Lindstedt said: “I was delighted for the squad as they have recovered well from a torrid start to the season in which they lost five out of the opening eight games to finish the season with only 11 defeats in all forms of football.

“They worked hard all season and the improvement from start of season to finish has been excellent and, as manager, I have been very proud of every one of them.

“At our presentation day, skipper Jack Patterson won the Shane Mullane Shield for Player of the Year.”