SUNDERLAND Primary Schools Boys are through to the Derwent and Medomsley Cup final for the ninth successive year – with another league championship success almost in their hands too.
Sunderland faced a difficult task in their semi-final, in freezing conditions at Wallsend, but soon began to cause the home defence a few problems.
Tireless running in midfield from Noel Partridge, Ellis Cowell, Lucas Bullock and Lewis Lukeman saw Sunderland take a grip of the game
Harry Gardiner and Nathan Simpson both stretched the home side with intelligent running and Simpson fired in two inviting crosses which the visitors failed to get on the end of.
The wind was proving to be Wallsend’s biggest threat and a kick out of the home keeper’s hands almost led to the opening goal, with Sunderland keeper Ben McDonald having to be alert as he back pedalled to catch the ball under his crossbar.
That signalled danger to Sunderland as every goal kick after that was hammered the length of the field, trying to catch McDonald off guard but, assisted by excellent defending by John Anderson and Lewis Connolly, he dealt comfortably with every effort.
Lewis Lukeman started to cause problems down Sunderland’s left with his direct running and dangerous crosses into the box, but a mixture of good goalkeeping and desperate defending saw the game reach half-time goalless.
Sunderland started the second half as they had begun the first and, in contrast to Wallsend, played some fine football from the back, with Anderson and Connolly offering good options to McDonald every time he received the ball.
Leading goalscorer Brandon Goldsmith almost put the visitors ahead but, having latched onto a through ball, he saw his effort deflected behind by the keeper.
Tireless running in midfield from Noel Partridge, Ellis Cowell, Lucas Bullock and Lukeman saw Sunderland take a grip of the game and the breakthrough finally came 10 minutes into the second half when Lukeman’s shot from the edge of the area trickled towards goal and somehow found its way through the keeper’s legs to give Sunderland a deserved lead.
Lukeman was replaced shortly afterwards by his Castletown schoolmate James Harrison and this led to the decisive second goal as Harrison produced a beautiful ball over the home defence to find Simpson, who showed great technique to wrap his foot around a ball that looked to be running away from him and fire it back across the keeper and into the far corner of the net.
Despite the two-goal lead, the Sunderland defence had to be alert as a fantastic run by the Wallsend forward down the left wing saw an inviting cross fired towards the far post and on to the head of a home attacker, but, under great pressure from Connolly, he failed to direct his header on target.
The third and final goal came with five minutes remaining when a Harrison corner was met by a bulleted header from Jude Percival, who buried the ball in the far corner of the net to cap a great all-round team performance.
With the other half of the draw still at the quarter-final stage, Sunderland await Darlington, East Northumberland or Middlesbrough in the final, which is set for May 2.
Sunderland have won the trophy seven times in the last eight seasons and are desperate to maintain their dominance.
Meanwhile, the young Wearsiders return to Harrison Cup league action to take on North Tyneside on Saturday, knowing that one point from the remaining two games will be sufficient to see them retain the championship for the fourth time in five seasons.