Sunderland Primary Schools Boys have made an encouraging start to their Harrison Cup campaign, with two wins out of two.
The Wearsiders kicked off with a 2-0 victory at home to East Northumberland.
They dominated the first period, but it ended goalless.
The introduction of Harry Clay as a half-time substitute changed the game as the visitors struggled to handle his pace.
Clay was upended in the box to win the penalty which led to the opening goal, with Lewis Sayers stepping up to confidently score from the spot.
East Northumberland stayed in the game, but Clay sealed the points in the final minute when he burst into the box to fire a killer second goal.
Next up, Sunderland were away to Chester-le-Street and burst into a stunning 4-0 lead.
An excellent move involving Clay and David Hodgson released Fletcher Ramsay, who powered into the box before firing home.
Sayers added a second, shooting home confidently from the penalty spot after Clay had again been fouled in the area.
Sayers added his second goal, a tremendous 25-yard free-kick into the top corner, and he completed a memorable hat-trick when he bulleted home a header from a Hodgson corner.
Despite being on top, the boys created and missed too many chances and three individual errors saw Chester pull three goals back, leaving Sunderland hanging on grimly for three points at 4-3.
The two league victories came on the back of a busy preparatory programme.
The squad first met up for a pre-season competition in Leeds, with Sunderland acquitting themselves well, despite missing out on a place in the semi-finals.
They lost 1-0 to Wirral, drew 0-0 with Barnsley after dominating, led York with a Jack Forth header before going down 2-1, then succumbed 2-0 to a strong Leeds team.
The following weekend, the boys had an excellent work-out against Newcastle Academy, going down 6-1, with Shae Bungoni’s strike a consolation.
The Leeds trip and Newcastle defeat did, however, give the boys good experience of playing together ahead of the traditional season opener, a trip to Darlington to compete in the Peter Dunn Trophy.
First up, Forth’s goal sank Stockton 1-0, while Darlington drew with Chester-le-Street. Sunderland totally dominated their second game against Chester but failed to capitalise with goals, and they were condemned to a 1-0 defeat.
With Darlington defeating Stockton 2-0, the Wearsiders had to beat Darlington in the final game and hope Chester-le-Street failed to beat Stockton.
The squad produced the best performance of the day to convincingly win 3-0, thanks to three outstanding strikes from Bungoni, Ramsay and Callum Pemberton.
Stockton’s 2-0 victory meant that the trophy would be returning to Sunderland for the fourth time in five seasons.
Since the Harrison Cup kick-off, Sunderland have also had two friendlies, going down 3-2 to Wallsend Primary Schools Boys and edging a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough Primary Schools Boys.
Against Wallsend, Clay, set free by Pemberton, rounded the keeper before slotting into an empty net. The Tynesiders hit back to lead 3-1.
Despite losing Forth and Sayers to injury, eight-man Sunderland rallied for a reply, with Pemberton converting a penalty, after Clay was fouled.
Facing Middlesbrough at Nissan, Oliver Dixon moved from midfield alongside captain-for-the-day James Sloan, while Kymani Severin made his full debut f after a promising debut as sub against Chester-le-Street in the Harrison Cup.
Sunderland took the lead when Clay and Hodgson combined to create a chance for Bungoni, who netted from close range at the second attempt.
Kicking into the wind, the boys’ first-half performance was as good as any they had produced this season.
But, again, a failure to finish the opposition off saw a nervy second half as Middlesbrough grew in confidence and only excellent defending from Dixon, Sloan, Pemberton and keeper Ben Mulvaney prevented an equaliser.
Sunderland held on to win 1-0.