SUNDERLAND Primary Schools Boys suffered heartbreak – as a change of rules denied them a place in the North of England seven-a-side finals.
In previous years, two teams progressed from the Durham County Primary Association seven-a-side championship, but only the winners were given a return ticket to the Academy of Light this season.
Sunderland finished runners-up, narrowly failing to maintain their three-year stranglehold on Durham success, despite not conceding a single goal throughout the tournament.
John Anderson, keeper Ben McDonald and Lewis Connolly excelled in Sunderland’s defence behind a hard-working midfield featuring James Harrison, Ellis Cowell, Jude Percival and Lewis Lukeman.
The Wearsiders kicked off with a 0-0 draw against Chester-le-Street, and goals proved equally hard to come across in the second match against South Tyneside until, in the closing stages, a defender sliced a cross into his own goal to hand three points to Sunderland’s relieved squad.
Sunderland found their shooting boots for the third match, beating Washington 3-0. James Harrison released Harry Gardiner, who finished confidently in a one on one with the keeper, then Cowell crashed home a penalty, after Gardiner was fouled, before Percival drove home a classy effort from outside the box.
A solitary goal, courtesy of a bullet header from Lucas Bullock was sufficient to defeat Derwentside 1-0, then a cool finish from Gardiner again secured a 1-0 victory against Darlington.
In the final group game, Sunderland and Durham failed to make the breakthrough in a goalless draw.
Durham’s striker hit the post when he should have scored, while Brandon Goldsmith spurned a great opportunity at the other end.
Sunderland then could only watch as Chester-le-Street chased a victory in their final match, also against Durham, to clinch the trophy on goal difference.
The game looked like finishing all square, but Chester got a stroke of luck as a shot rebounded off the post before hitting the Durham keeper and trickling over the line to secure their 1-0 victory, and the silverware.
P W D L F A Pt
Chester-le-Street 6 4 2 0 8 1 14
Sunderland 6 4 2 0 6 0 14
Darlington 6 3 0 3 4 3 9
Durham City 6 2 2 2 6 5 8
Derwentside 6 2 1 3 4 6 7
South Tyneside 6 0 3 3 5 10 3
Washington 6 0 2 4 1 9 2