FRAIZER Campbell marked his return to competitive action with a goal as Sunderland moved to the summit of the Barclays Premier Reserve League North.
Campbell took a significant step in his comeback from 16 months of injury misery last night after helping Sunderland’s second string win 3-1 at Blackburn Rovers.
The 24-year-old had featured in a couple of behind-closed-doors games since recovering from a second bout of knee ligament damage, but a niggling hamstring problem prevented him featuring sooner for the reserves.
But Campbell opened the scoring during a successful 65 minute run-out in the North West yesterday, while goalkeeper Craig Gordon completed his second successive game after recovering from his own knee injury troubles.
Victory moved Sunderland three points clear of Manchester United at the top of the reserve league, although the Red Devils now boast three games in hand.
Campbell almost found the net inside the first 10 minutes – sending a volley from 25 yards just wide of the post after being picked out by Jordan Cook.
Blackburn, without a win this season, went close themselves at the other end midway through the first half when James Knowles’ free-kick crashed against the woodwork.
But it was Campbell who broke the deadlock four minutes into the second half when Craig Lynch surged forward from halfway and fed the ex-Manchester United striker, who steered his right-footed shot into the bottom corner.
Keith Bertschin’s men doubled their advantage 10 minutes later when Louis Laing headed home off the underside of the crossbar.
Rovers almost pulled one back when Bruno Ribeiro found Jordan Slew on the edge of the area whose left-footed effort was well-saved by Gordon.
But Sunderland extended their advantage to three when Ryan Noble’s shot was saved by Rovers keeper Matt Urwin, only for Adam Reed to tuck away the rebound.
Sunderland substitute Roarie Deacon forced a fine save from Urwin with five minutes to go.
Rovers then earned some reward for their efforts in stoppage time when Knowles’ cross was diverted beyond Gordon by substitute Jamie Maclaren.
BLACKBURN: Urwin, Ribeiro, Edwards, O’Connor, Wylie, Aley, Knowles, O’Sullivan, Morris (Cotton 67), Blackman (Osawe 67), Slew (Maclaren 67). Subs not used: Usai, O’Connell.
SUNDERLAND: Gordon, Marrs (Watson 75), Liddle, Bagnall, Laing, Reed, Lynch, Knott, Ryan Noble, Campbell (Deacon 65), Cook (Elliott 75). Subs Not Used: King, L Noble.