Reece James plays 45 minutes as Sunderland Under-23s lose to Stoke
Reece James stepped up his road to recovery with a 45-minute cameo for Sunderland Under-23s, who were beaten 2-1 by Stoke at Eppleton CW, Hetton.
The left-back, who hasn't featured for the first team since his arrival from Wigan in the summer, had a relatively quiet half, as Elliott Dickman's side began life in Premier League 2, Division 2.
Sunderland’s youngsters looked like they were heading towards a winning start, after Jake Hackett's first-half finish put them ahead at half-time.
But, Stoke were the better side after the break and drew level through Oliver Shenton, before Tyrese Campbell clinched a winner.
After a difficult campaign last season, Dickman’s team were relegated from the top-flight, however the side did provide a platform for the likes of Bali Mumba, Elliot Embleton and Luke Molyneux to break into the senior side.
As expected, Dickman didn't name any senior players, aside from James, who had been nursing a groin problem.
There were starts for new arrivals Jordan Hunter, Jack Bainbridge and goalkeeper Max Johnstone.
Johnstone will have been grateful that his first task wasn’t to pick the ball out of his own net, after Stoke striker Tyrese Campbell saw his low shot rebound off the inside of the post.
The visitors dominated possession and created the better chances in the early exchanges, but it was Sunderland who took the lead on 26 minutes.
Their opener came when Connor Shields, who started in a central role, drifted out to the right and picked out Hackett with a cross, before the latter side-footed the ball home from inside the area.
James was replaced by Williams Kokolo at the interval, and Stoke continued to see more of the ball after the restart.
Still, the visitors didn’t create a clear-cut chance until the 73rd minute, when a cross from the right was headed straight into the path of Shenton by defender Brandon Taylor, allowing the Stoke midfielder to equalise from close range.
Campbell then got the winner nine minutes from time after Johnstone parried Josh Tymon’s cross straight to the striker, and he made no mistake with the rebound.
Sunderland: Johnstone: Hunter, Taylor, Bainbridge, James (Kokolo 45): Bale (C), Connolly, Hackett: Diamond (Storey 83), Connelly, Shields.
Subs Not Used: Young, Newman, Best.
Goal: Hackett (26)
Stoke: Gyollai: Thandi, Tymon, Sorensen, Wara, Collins, Verlinden (Waddington 89), Dunwoody, Campbell, Shenton, Jarvis (Pemberton 67)
Subs Not Used: Butler, Brrome, Kyeremateng.
Goals: Shenton (73) Campbell (81)
Referee:Mr Leigh Doughty.