SUNDERLAND firsts are up and running in North League Division Two East after a deserved first win of the new campaign.
The Ashbrooke side, newly promoted as North East Division One champions, produced an impressive all-round team performance to outgun Wakefield seconds 2-0.
Mark Wilkinson’s tigerish presence in midfield helped Sunderland’s forward momentum, having been missed in the opening defeat at Huddersfield, and a solid defence – with Andy Gayner particuarly impressive – provided the platform for victory.
Skipper Matt Dench made the breakthrough, though there was a stroke of fortune about it. The keeper made a great save to keep out the initial, close-range effort, but a second scrambled effort was bundled over the line, off the thigh of a luckless defender.
Sunderland failed to make the most of their short corners, but they doubled their lead after seeing a routine break down, with Nick Campbell firing home.
While Wakefield had just 11 players and wilted in the heat in the second half, Sunderland used their 15-man squad fully to kill off any hopes of a comeback from the visitors, keeping possession to frustrate the Yorkshire club.
Sunderland had chances to increase their winning margin, but they lacked the cutting edge in front of goal.
Captain Dench said: “This was a satisfying first win and will give the team a lot of self-belief after a disappointing result at Huddersfield. However, there are likely to be many tougher challenges ahead, probably starting with the visit of Leeds.”
Sunderland welcome unbeaten Leeds Adel Carnegie to the Raich Carter Centre on Saturday (1.45pm), a game followed by Sunderland seconds’ North East League opener against Marton Furness (3pm).
Sunderland thirds head to Team Northumbria seconds on Saturday (2pm), looking for a first win of the Third Division campaign after last week’s 7-4 defeat at Richmond.
The Wearsiders stormed into a 3-0 lead only to suffer in the heat with a depleted team as injuries struck, with no substitutes available. Peter Billyard bagged the pick of Sunderland’s four goals, a superb strike from a short corner, with Jonny Raine, Steve Crute and Neale Holmes, who shone in midfield, also on target.
Sunderland fourths, held 1-1 by Gateshead fourths last week, visit Norton thirds on Saturday (3pm).
In the England Hockey League’s Conference North, Durham University secured their first win of the season with a hard-earned 3-2 win away to Brooklands Manchester University.
Oliver Clarke’s side fell behind to an early Simon Hodgkinson strike, but Daniel Coultas converted a penalty corner to level by half-time.
Alex Czerniewski gave Durham the lead nine minutes into the second half, with Coultas adding a third from another penalty corner soon after. Dave Flanagan bagged the hosts’ second consolation a minute from time.
This Saturday, the students head to bottom club Barford Tigers, who have picked up just one point in three games.