Fit-again Josh Maja conjured up a superb equaliser to earn Sunderland a vital away point at Derby County in the Barclays U18 Premier League’s Northern Division to keep alive their hopes of a top-four play-off place.
The game started slowly at a cold and windy Derby Academy, with both teams wanting to bounce back from respective defeats last week.
It remained tight throughout the first half, with cagey football from both sides.
The home side did make the breakthrough in the 75th minute, James Carvell pouncing on a Sunderland defensive error, but the visitors hit back eight minutes later when substitute Maja, back after injury, received the ball at the edge of the Rams area and beat defenders to hit home and claim a point.
Sunderland coach Elliot Dickman said afterwards: “I thought we played some good football, but we must be more patient.
“It was a poor goal to give away and we must defend better. We played good football when we were in possession but must be more ruthless in front of goal.”
Derby: Barnes, Bogle, Stabana, Cover, Macdonald; Bird, Babos, Mills; Thomas, Carvell, Jakobsen
Sunderland: Woud, Taylor (Maja 55), Casey, Storey, Hume, Molyneux, Gamble, Wright, Embleton. Subs not used: Allen, McCulloch, Poame, Diamond.