Sunderland Primary Schools Boys’ progress since the start of the season was emphasised when they reached the semi-finals of the Premier League Schools North District tournament at Sheffield.
The aim was a final place, and guaranteed progress to the national finals, but they came up just short.
Sunderland opened with a 0-0 draw against Leeds, despite having the majority of the play.
A 25-second goal from Callum Stanton gave Sunderland the perfect start against Stockton, in the second group game - he got on the end of an excellent Alfie Burnside cross to drive home from just inside the area.
Burnside increased the lead when his cross floated over the Stockton keeper’s head and nestled in the far corner. The Teessiders responded with a good move which ended with a shot which gave keeper Tye Dobbs little chance.
Stockton pressed hard for a leveller, and Sunderland were relieved to hear the final whistle, sealing a 2-1 win.
The final group game against Bolsover saw the Wearsiders needing to win by four goals to pip Leeds to top spot.
It looked like it would be a frustrating game for Sunderland, but a brilliant hat-trick of headers from Callum Hughes, who converted a series of excellent crosses from Riley Mouat, Stanton and Kailem Beattie, sealed victory.
The 3-0 scoreline meant that Sunderland shared top spot with Leeds, with both teams qualifying for the semi-finals.
Sunderland came up against Liverpool and spent a lot of time on the back foot but responded well to falling a goal behind, with Beattie firing across the face of the goal after a strong run down the left and Mouat firing a shot across the six-yard box which evaded everybody.
Liverpool went on to clinch a 2-0 win courtesy of a penalty with the final kick of the game, when Stanton was adjudged to have fouled his opponent. Dobbs’ best efforts failed to keep the ball out.
In the final, Darlington beat Liverpool on penalties, though both sides won through to the national finals.
Sunderland suffered disappointment in the Durham Schools FA five-a-side Championships at the Louisa Centre in Stanley.
The Wearsiders won the tournament for four successive years before losing the final to Darlington last term.
This time round they opened up with a 0-0 draw against Durham then beat highly-rated Darlington with a Mouat strike.
A second 0-0 draw, against old rivals Chester-le-Street, was followed by a 2-2 draw with Redcar and Cleveland, with Hughes and, in the dying moments, Jack Waller netting.
The final game saw Sunderland needing to beat North Tyneside by two goals to secure the title, but, despite leading with Stanton’s strike and creating a host of chances, North Tyneside hit back to win 3-1 to secure runners-up spot, while condemning Sunderland to fourth place.