Sunderland Primary Schools Boys will start 2017 in fine fettle after signing off the old year with a memorable 6-2 victory over Newcastle.
The resounding success, inspired by Jack Waller’s hat-trick, keeps the Wearsiders on track to compete for the Harrison Cup title.
The derby triumph took Sunderland into third place in the table, with two fixtures left before the league splits, with the top five competing for the prestigious Harrison Cup and the bottom four playing for the Harry Charlton Trophy.
In a tight league, one win from the remaining two away games against East Northumberland or Redcar & Cleveland should secure a top-five spot for the city lads, giving them the opportunity to win the title in the second half of the season.
Sunderland started strongly against Newcastle at the Academy of Light, with wide men Alfie Burnside and Kailem Beattie causing the visitors problems with their direct running.
Burnside fired a shot across goal which evaded everyone and just cleared the back post, while the visiting keeper was in inspired form, making a number of fine saves to keep the scores level.
Newcastle took the lead against the run of play when a shot from outside the box evaded home goalie Tye Dobbs, but the boys quickly equalised when Beattie fed Waller inside the box and he confidently fired home to leave the game all square at half-time.
Sunderland took the lead early in the second half when excellent work from Alfie Hodgson found Waller unmarked in the box and he again finished well for his second goal of the game.
Despite being well on top, the home side failed to find a third goal and were punished when the excellent Callum Stanton was dispossessed in his own half and Dobbs was left helpless when a clinical finish from outside the box beat him all ends up.
Sunderland, though, regained the lead when a clever flick from Waller released John Felton-Doyle and he smashed the ball into the top corner from just inside the area for 3-2.
Waller completed his hat-trick shortly after when he was found by a Jack Patterson pass and showed great strength to hold his man off before firing home from the edge of the box.
Sunderland were flying and it was soon 5-2 when a teasing cross from Burnside found Riley Mouat at the back post and he made no mistake from close range.
Alfie Hodgson then capped a fine individual performance when he received a pass from Mouat just outside the box and took a touch before blasting the ball across the keeper and into the far corner to complete the scoring.
Earlier last month, Sunderland shared the spoils with North Tyneside in a close-fought 1-1 draw at Castletown Primary School, making it one win and three draws in the league.
Dobbs made two fine saves to keep the visitors at bay, but North Tyneside took the lead with a strike from distance.
A change in the visitors’ formation at half-time allowed Burnside to push into midfield from defence, with Will Murphy and Adam Anderson both looking comfortable at the back.
The extra man in midfield saw Sunderland gain the upper hand and they equalised when a well-worked Mouat corner found Waller unmarked at the back post and he headed home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Waller had an effort cleared off the line before North TGyneside hit the bar in a dramatic finale, but the game deservedly ended 1-1.
Sunderland also competed in the Durham County Schools seven-a-side Championship, but they were unable to retain the trophy.
The city boys kicked off with a 1-1 draw against Darlington, rallying strongly to equalise when a driving run and shot from captain Patterson was turned into his own net by a Darlington defender under severe pressure from Callum Hughes.
The following 0-0 draw against Durham was to prove fatal to the boys’ chances of retaining the trophy.
Waller was inches away from connecting with two delicious Beattie crosses, but, despite dominating, Sunderland failed to convert any of their chances and were indebted to Dobbs for two great saves which secured a clean sheet.
Sunderland looked set for another scoreless match against old adversaries Chester-le-Street in a tight game, but Chester snatched a vital 1-0 win when a long-distance shot slipped through the hands of Dobbs to condemn Sunderland to a first defeat.
The final game saw a comfortable 4-0 win over Washington, with Hughes, Waller (2) and a magnificent Stanton goal, winning the day.
The Wearsiders finished in third place behind Darlington and eventual winners Chester-le-Street.