CRAIG Gordon was unable to help Sunderland’s reserves reach the Central League Cup final for a second successive year.
Scotland keeper Gordon played the full 90 minutes for the Black Cats yesterday in a 3-2 defeat at Derby County’s Pride Park.
The £9million man, by far the most senior member of the side, was making only his fourth appearances for the second string since recovering from a long-term knee problem, yet couldn’t prevent Derby’s second half comeback knocking the defending champions out of the competition.
Sunderland striker Jordan Laidler was denied in the opening two minutes after he escaped the offside trap but saw his low effort blocked by Rams keeper Adam Legzdins.
Will Hughes and Tom Carroll both went close for Derby moments later before Roarie Deacon blazed over for the visitors.
It was Sunderland who went ahead in the 27th minute when Laidler broke free down the right and delivered a low cross which was converted at the back post by strike partner Adam Mitchell.
Sunderland twice went close to doubling their lead early in the second half.
First, Laidler saw his shot well-blocked by Legzdins after going clean through on goal before Deacon’s header was deflected onto the bar by on-loan Spurs midfielder Carroll.
Derby punished Keith Bertschin’s men in the 52nd minute when England youth international Kwame Thomas glanced home James Bailey’s corner.
The Rams then took the lead when Mason Bennett square to the onrushing Hughes who rifled the ball past Gordon.
And the hosts earned themselves some breathing space in the 73rd minute when Chris Jones got between Gordon and Brett Elliott before heading home from two yards out.
Black Cats substitute Mikael Mandron immediately gave Sunderland hope when he fired past Legzdins, but an equaliser evaded Bertschin’s side.
DERBY: Legzdins, Jones, Berry (Galinski 65), Ball, Connolly, Hughes, Bailey, Carroll, Witham (Dawkins 46), Thomas (Richards 87), Bennett. Subs Not Used: Severn, Dales.
SUNDERLAND: Gordon, Marrs, Callaghan (Oliver 63), Elliott, Bagnall, Watson, Gorrin (Mandron 74), Deacon, Laidler, Mitchell, Lynch. Subs Not Used: Wilson, Thomas, Lawson.