Sunderland Under-23s hang on to claim first victory of the season against West Brom
Jack Diamond came off the bench to give Sunderland Under-23s their first victory of the season, after a hard-fought 2-1 victory over West Brom.
The young Black Cats had lost their opening three league games in Premier League 2, Division 2, but took the lead courtesy of Luke Molyneux’s first-half opener at Eppleton CW, Hetton.
Elliott Dickman’s side could have folded when Kyle Edwards equalised midway through the second half, but the hosts showed plenty of character when Diamond grabbed the winner two minutes later.
Crucially, Sunderland didn't falter a second time, as they kept the visitors at arms length in the closing stages.
Dickman named a strong side with Molyneux, who has featured for the senior side this campaign, starting in the central forward role, with Benji Kimpioka and Lee Connelly on the flanks.
The Sunderland boss also handed a start to 23-year-old defender Gael Andonian, an Armenian international who started his career at Marseille.
Andonian, who has been training with the club for the last few weeks, lined up alongside Jack Bainbridge in the heart of Sunderland’s backline, which came under immediate pressure.
Within 60 seconds, West Brom’s Kyle Edwards burst into the Sunderland box, gliding past right-back Brandon Taylor, before being thwarted by goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.
West Brom’s attacking trio of Edwards, Jonathan Leko and Callum Murton looked lively early on, but Sunderland grew into the game as the first half wore on.
Dickman’s side looked dangerous on the break, with Kimpioka and Connelly proving good outlets out wide.
But it was a West Brom error which led to Sunderland’s opener, when defender Kyle Howkins gave the ball straight to Molyneux, sending the striker straight through on goal.
Molyneux didn’t need a second invitation to score, calmly chipping the ball over goalkeeper Brad House.
Sunderland continued to beaver away in the drizzling rain and were good value for their lead at the half-time whistle.
The Baggies raised the intensity at the start of the second half, though, and Sunderland had Patterson to thank for keeping the visitors out.
First, the Sunderland shot stopper palmed away Nick Clayton-Phillips’ drive, before denying Edwards down low.
But, Patterson was caught up in a defensive mix-up on 65 minutes, when Jack Bainbridge’s back pass lacked pace.
The Black Cats keeper hesitated, allowing Edwards to beat him to the loose ball and slot home the equaliser.
Sunderland did squander a first-half lead against Stoke a couple of weeks ago, when they appeared to tire in the closing stages.
Here, they hit back instantly, retaking the lead through Diamond in the 67th minute, when the substitute’s deflected shot beat House at his near post.
That goal proved the difference, as Sunderland held on for a much-needed win.
Sunderland: Patterson, Taylor (Storey 62), Hunter, Bale (C), Bainbridge, Andonian, Connelly, Gamble, Molyneux, Hackett (Diamond 62), Kimpioka.
Subs Not Used: Storey, Johnstone, Connolly, Kokolo, Diamond.
Goal: Molyneux (23), Diamond (67)
West Brom: House, Mears, Townsend, Wilding (C), Howkins, Healy, Clayton-Phillips, Azaz, Murton (Soule 87), Edwards, Leko.
Subs Not Used: Brown, Griffiths, Meredith, Harmon, Soule.
Goal: Edwards (65)
Referee: Mr Matthew East