Sunderland Primary Schools Boys made good progress in the North East stage of the inaugural English Schools FA Premier League tournament, at Middlesbrough’s training ground.
The tournament aims to increase the profile of district football and Sunderland showed they were up for the challenge, clinching one of the two qualification places for the national finals.
In driving rain, Sunderland made a tentative start to the opening group game against Stockton but started to gain the upper hand as the tie progressed.
An Ellis Stanton free-kick, which was headed off the line, was the nearest either team came to breaking the deadlock and the game finished 0-0.
Sunderland improved for their second game against South Northumberland.
Eden Page’s burst from defence led to the opening goal, as he drove deep into the opposition half, before playing in Bryan Taylor, who cleverly squared the ball to strike partner Josh Martin, who made no mistake in burying the ball for a very good team goal.
Martin completed the scoring at 2-0 shortly after when he found space in the box to control and drive home a Stanton cross.
Despite being soaked through, Sunderland produced another strong performance to dominate Durham from the opening whistle. Jake Hutchinson opened the scoring when he confidently fired home in a one on one situation.
Great work by Taylor saw him trick his way along the by-line to produce a great cross across the area for Mason Tarrant to fire home from close range, then Taylor made it 3-0, calmly passing the ball past the helpless keeper after finding himself with time and space in the area.
Sunderland then faced table-toppers Darlington knowing that victory would guarantee a top-two finish. Chances were at a premium as both teams cancelled each other out, with keeper Ethan Baillie, Page and captain Joe Errington rarely troubled as a fourth consecutive clean sheet was guaranteed in a 0-0 draw.
Sunderland required only a draw against old rivals Redcar and Cleveland to clinch progress, with the Teessiders needing to win.
In another very close game, Redcar almost snatched a win in the very last minute when their centre-forward raced clear on goal only to be pegged back and outmuscled by Page, who showed great desire to prevent a goalscoring opportunity.
The game ended goalless, sealing second place behind group winners Darlington.