Sunderland U23 1 West Ham U23 2 - Duncan Watmore completes 70 minutes in Hammers defeat

Duncan Watmore in action for Sunderland Under-23s against West Ham United.
Duncan Watmore in action for Sunderland Under-23s against West Ham United.

Duncan Watmore successfully completed 70 minutes for Sunderland Under-23s as he closes in on a first team return after nine months out injured.

The Black Cats’ forward, out since last December after suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury, started the 2-1 Premier League 2 defeat to West Ham United Under-23s.

The 23-year-old now has two Under-23 appearances under his belt after 45 minutes against Manchester City last weekend followed by an extended run out against the Hammers.

Despite his lengthy absence, Watmore was full of running and energy, looked sharp and was constantly probing the Hammers defence, causing them problems with his diagonal runs.

He had three openings and will have been disappointed not to have taken at least one but his return to fitness is a big boost for Simon Grayson and his struggling side.

Likely to be in contention for a first team recall after the upcoming international break, Watmore will give Sunderland's attack an added dimension and crucially pace - which he hasn't

appeared to lost any of despite his bad knee injury.

With Grayson and first team coach Robbie Stockdale watching on from the stand at Hetton, Watmore led the line against the Hammers with Elliot Embleton in a No.10 role.

And Watmore, wearing No.9, was quick to make a nuisance of himself, with Sunderland enjoying the better of the opening exchanges.

Elliott Dickman's side should have taken the lead after just eight minutes, Watmore quickly latching on to a long ball downfield by keeper Michael Woud.

The striker nodded the ball on but it ran away from him with Nathan Trott out quickly to clear the danger.

Watmore was again involved soon after, holding off challenges from two Hammers defenders on the edge of the area to get a shot away, comfortably saved.

Watmore continued to cause problems but missed another good chance 19 minutes in after latching onto a loose ball down the left wing, his right-footed effort was parried.

Sunderland were made to pay a minute later. West Ham opened the scoring through Toni Martinez's header from six-yards after a quick break.

The visitors doubled their lead in the 29th minute after capitalising on a mistake by Hume, Samuelsen played a one-two with Martinez before doubling the lead from eight-yards.

Sunderland halved the deficit 10 minutes before the break.

The lively Molyneux cut inside from the right wing before hitting a low, fierce shot into the bottom right-hand corner, Trott unable to keep it out.

There was a lengthy stoppage just before half-time, Martinez and Taylor came together off the ball with the Hammers forward coming off worse with a neck complaint but he was fine to continue.

Taylor, who had been suffering from illness before the game, was subbed at half-time with Alex Storey on in his place.

Sunderland started the second half well, with Embleton missing a golden chance to equalise.

Hume played a sublime ball down the left channel to Watmore, with a deft touch he took it past Trott, who had rushed out, before producing a fine cross towards Embleton but he couldn't

direct his header with the goal gaping.

Embleton, at the heart of all Sunderland's attacks, was again involved just before the hour mark but he couldn't get on the end of Rees Greenwood's low cross.

It was all Sunderland second half, Greenwood bouncing a volley into the turf and over the bar, while Allan saw three efforts from outside the area saved by Trott.

Dickman's side couldn't find the equaliser their play deserved, with West Ham holding firm to take the victory.

Sunderland: Woud, Gamble, Beadling (C), Hume, Taylor (Storey, 45), Bale, Molyneux, Allan, Embleton, Greenwood (Best, 83), Watmore (Nelson, 70).

Subs Not Used: Brotherton, Patterson.

Booked: Embleton (86)

Goals: Molyneux (36)

West Ham: Trott, Johnson, Powell, Makasi, Pike, Pask, Samuelsen (Longelo, 61), Diangana, Martinez (Hector-Ingram, 90), Kemp (Scully, 75), Holland.

Subs Not Used: Matrevic.

Goals: Martinez (20), Samuelsen (29)

Referee: P. Marsden.