SUNDERLAND Under-21s remain without a victory in 2013 after a goalless stalemate at Everton in their penultimate outing of the season.
But it was a more than respectable point for Kevin Ball’s side, who overcame the gulf in experience with their hosts.
The Toffees included first-team fringe players Jan Mucha, Shane Duffy and Apostolos Vellios, while long-serving right-back Tony Hibbert also featured as part of his return from injury.
But Sunderland, who were boosted by the return of Billy Knott and Jordan Pickford – both back from loan spells in the Blue Square Premier – held firm and could have even nicked it at the death.
Everton were the dominant side for much of the opening hour, with Pickford denying winger Matty Kennedy in a one-on-one just before the 30-minute mark.
Moments later, Everton went close again when Ty Browning broke into the box and unleashed a low shot which was again blocked by Pickford.
Seven minutes before the interval, Vellios should have done better, but scuffed a harmless shot on the turn straight into the arms of the Black Cats keeper.
Frontman Chris Long headed just over the bar in the 53rd minute after being picked out by half-time substitute Matthew Pennington’s cross.
But with 15 minutes to go, Sunderland almost broke the deadlock when Alex Gorrin curled a shot just wide of Mucha’s goal.
And they had another late opportunity to nick the points, only for Mikael Mandron to see his effort deflected wide, with Mucha stranded.
EVERTON: Mucha, Stones, Browning, Junior, Duffy, Hibbert, Garbutt (Pennington 46), Grant, Vellios (Waring 46), Long, Kennedy. Subs not used: Griffiths, Hammar, Molyneux.
SUNDERLAND: Pickford, Marrs, Harrison, McNamee, Ferguson, Mitchell, Gorrin, Laidler, Knott, Noble, Mandron. Subs not used: Honeyman, Dixon, Smith, Agnew, Breadling.