Sunderland Primary Schools Boys have lost their unbeaten start to the Harrison Cup campaign.
After winning the first two league matches, the Wearsiders lost their 100% record in a close-fought 1-1 draw at Darlington.
Sunderland made an excellent start and, after a marginal offside decision denied Harry Clay an opening goal, the same player raced onto a fine through ball from Lewis Sayers to bravely lob the onrushing goalkeeper and give his side the lead.
The turning point came shortly after when Clay, a real handful for the Darlington defence, was upended in the box, but, to the visitors’ dismay, the referee waved away appeals for a penalty.
Darlington equalised a minute into the second half when a free-kick from just inside their half sailed over keeper Ben Mulvaney’s head and into the roof of the net.
The boys responded positively to the setback and finished the game much the stronger side, but they failed to capitalise on several chances and the 1-1 draw left them with seven points from three games.
The unbeaten record went in last weekend’s defeat at North Tyneside.
Sunderland created the better of the chances but fell behind shortly after half-time when the hosts fired home unmarked from the edge of the area.
The boys went 2-0 down when a clumsy Daniel Atkinson tackle led to a penalty which Mulvaney was unable to keep out.
The city lads showed plenty of character to try to force themselves back into the game, with Fletcher Ramsay forcing a good save from the keeper after a flowing move.
Shae Bungoni then sent a back-post header wide.
Sunderland did grab a lifeline when Ramsay released Clay, who rounded the keeper before being upended in the box. Ramsay confidently despatched the penalty, but time ran out on the visitors as North Tyneside held on to win 2-1.
In the half-term holiday, the city boys had their traditional matches against Wirral.
First up, the Wearsiders drew 1-1 with Wirral Under-10s. The boys took the lead when a cross was only partially cleared to David Hodgson who crashed a memorable 25-yarder into the roof of the net.
His fine strike should have secured victory, but a lapse in concentration allowed Wirral to equalise in the final quarter of the game.
The following day, Sunderland took on Wirral Under-11s and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.
Despite making a promising start, the boys fell behind when Oliver Dixon miscontrolled a ball on the edge of the area and a Wirral forward stabbed it past Mulvaney.
Wirral went two up in the second period when Sunderland failed to deal with a cross into the box and it was headed home unchallenged.
Sunderland continued to work hard and created chances, with Clay (twice) and Kymani Severin both denied by the keeper in one-on-one situations.
The sides will meet again on Merseyside in February.
This Saturday, the boys visit Middlesbrough for the Premier League District Schools competition.