ALEX GORRIN’S stoppage time strike ensured Sunderland Under-21s ended their campaign on a high after a 2-2 draw at Fulham.
Kevin Ball’s side twice fought back from behind at Craven Cottage, with striker Ryan Noble, playing his last game in Sunderland colours, and then Gorrin pegging back the hosts.
The result was irrelevant for Sunderland in terms of league position though, with a winless 2013 already condemning the Black Cats to bottom spot in Group One of the three tier U21 League structure.
Sunderland, who included Liam Marrs, Mikael Mandron and Jordan Laidler – all unused substitutes in the first-team’s win over Everton last weekend, almost grabbed an early lead when Billy Knott’s effort drew a fine diving save out of Cottagers keeper Jesse Joronen.
A Sunderland player did open the scoring, but unfortunately for the Black Cats, it was defender Tom Beadling who turned the ball into his own net from Sean Kavanagh’s 17th minute free-kick.
Fulham were handed the chance to double their advantage from the penalty spot four minutes later after Gorrin brought down Omri Altman.
Altman dusted himself down to take the spot-kick himself, only to be denied by a stunning save from Pickford.
Noble, due to be released when his contract at the Stadium of Light expires in the summer, should have done better just before the half-hour mark when he fired straight at Joronen from Marrs’ clever pass.
And with Sunderland finishing the half in the ascendancy, Knott fired over the top just before the interval.
But Ball’s side eventually made the breakthrough in the 62nd minute when Noble curled the ball over Joronen, into the roof of the net for the leveller.
Fulham were handed a second spot-kick in the 75th minute though after Pickford brought down Ryan Williams inside the area.
This time the hosts made no mistake, with Chris David coolly converting the penalty.
Sunderland weren’t finished, Mikael Mandron drawing a stunning save out of Joronen before the Fulham keeper denied Noble with three minutes to go.
But then in the first minute of stoppage time, Ball’s men grabbed the leveller when Gorrin unleashed a screamer from distance.
FULHAM: Joronen, Christensen, Musa (Burgess 61), Grimmer, Kavanagh, Minkwitz, R Williams (Baba 84), Altman, Banya, David, Islamovic (Dembele 77). Subs not used: Oberschmidt, O’Reilly.
SUNDERLAND: Pickford, Marrs, Harrison, Beadling, Ferguson, Mitchell, Knott (Laing 77), Laidler, Gorrin, Noble, Mandron. Subs not used: Holland, Stryjek, Cartwright.