EVERYTHING looks better after a win.
Seven days after being thumped 4-0 against a star-studded Manchester United side that included Luke Shaw, Adnan Januzaj and Anderson, Sunderland Under-21s did what the first-team are still striving to achieve, by breaking their duck.
It’s one of the shortcomings of the U21 League that one week Sunderland can come up against a side boasting such strength, and the next they can face one composed of youngsters.
But the Black Cats did the job effectively in a decent game against Spurs at Eppleton Colliery Welfare tonight, in front of head coach Gus Poyet and sporting director Lee Congerton, plus the usual array of Football League scouts along with Bradford boss Phil Parkinson.
There was plenty of loan prospects to run the rule over.
Charis Mavrias, perhaps surprisingly not involved in the Capital One Cup third round tie against Stoke, did well in a lively front three alongside Carl Lawson and the ever-dangerous Duncan Watmore, who constantly stretched the Spurs defence with his pace.
Midfield pair Connor Oliver and Liam Agnew also stood out alongside out-of-favour Cabral, with the latter not quite as languid as he was the U21s’ defeat to Liverpool last month.
And despite a late scare, Sunderland were good value for the 2-1 victory.
“I expected a reaction from the previous week,” said development coach Robbie Stockdale. “We all know the team we played, with the individuals, although I expected us to do better.
“But I thought the reaction was first-class. The attitude of the players was very good.
“Did we play beautiful, flowing football for the full 90 minutes? No.
“But I think at times we passed it well and created numerous chances.
“You could see the players get a bit anxious towards the end and they’re young boys.
“I can understand that because they want to win and do well. Hopefully now we’ve got that first win, we’ll start to finish the game a bit stronger if we’re in similar situations.”
An excellent save from Spurs keeper Luke McGee prevented Watmore opening the scoring midway through the first half.
Tom Robson burst down the left-flank and whipped in a low cross which Watmore met on the half-volley, only for McGee to block with his legs.
Watmore was denied again by McGee six minutes into the second half when he surged forward from just inside the Spurs half, raced past centre-half Milos Veljkovic, but saw his shot turned behind at the near post by the Spurs stopper.
But from the resulting corner, Sunderland did break the deadlock after Watmore hooked on Oliver’s poorly hit delivery into the six-yard box.
David Ferguson managed to get a touch in the melee to tap it into the net from point-blank range.
Sunderland were then awarded a spot-kick with 13 minutes to go after substitute Martin Smith was checked as he raced into the box.
Smith took the subsequent penalty himself and converted it at the second attempt after his initial effort was saved by McGee, before he tucked away the rebound.
Miller almost pulled one back immediately for Spurs after Sunderland failed to deal with a cross from the right, but the winger’s shot was turned behind at the near post by Joel Dixon.
Spurs did grab a consolation in the last minute when Smith took the pace off a cross from the right, when he should have left it, and striker Daniel Akindayini smashed the ball into the net.
Sunderland were nervy during three minutes of stoppage time, but they held on for that first victory of the campaign.
SUNDERLAND: Dixon, Cartwright, T Robson, Oliver (Smith 73), McNamee, Ferguson, Watmore, Agnew, Mavrias, Lawson (Greenwood 82), Cabral (E Robson 90). Subs not used: Stryjek, Sukar. Booked: Cartwright (41), Cabral (90)
SPURS: McGee, Carter-Vickers, McQueen, Winks (Lesniak 59), Ball, Veljkovic, Sonupe (Oduwa 57), Lameiras (Pritchard 71), Akindayini, Mason, Miller. Sub not used: Miles.