Sunderland Under-23s suffered their fourth defeat in a row in Premier League 2, Division 2, after they were beaten 2-0 by Southampton at Eppleton CW, Hetton.
Despite fielding a strong-looking side, featuring Benji Kimpioka, Bali Mumba and Luke Molyneux, Elliott Dickman’s men fell behind with less than a minute on the clock, courtesy of Callum Slattery’s opener.
The hosts did create the better chances after half-time, but suffered another setback midway through the second half when Marcus Barnes headed home from a corner.
Molyneux was Sunderland’s brightest spark, and was unlucky to be denied on several occasions by Saints goalkeeper Jack Rose.
The winger is on loan at National League side Gateshead, but is still allowed to play non-competitive games for the Black Cats.
Behind Molyneux, Mumba lined up alongside Jake Hackett, 18, in midfield, and the pair showed their quality on the ball in the early exchanges - but only after Sunderland fell behind inside 57 seconds.
The visitors didn’t hesitate from the kick-off and took the lead when Slattery found space on the edge of the area, before firing the ball past goalkeeper Max Johnstone.
Southampton seemed content to concede possession and hit Sunderland on the break, a tactic which almost paid off when Johnathan Afolabi’s 11th-minute shot was deflected just wide.
Sunderland responded two minutes later when Molyneux’s inviting cross was headed wide by Daniel Neil.
Molyneux appeared Sunderland’s best route to goal, and it often took two Southampton men, or a foul, to stop him.
Even so, as the game began to settle, Sunderland striker Benji Kimpioka became more and more isolated up front, as both sides struggled to create chances.
Sunderland found some renewed energy at the start of the second half and would have drawn level if it wasn’t for Rose.
First the Southampton man denied Molyneux on 55 minutes, when the winger's fine strike was heading for the top corner until Rose produced an impressive one-handed save.
Two minutes later, Molyneux was left frustrated again, after cutting in from the right before Rose repelled his low effort.
Those saves proved decisive, as the visitors doubled their advantage on 62 minutes, when Will Smallbone’s in-swinging corner was nodded in by Barnes at the near post.
Sunderland continued to threaten, though, as Rose kept out another Molyneux effort before blocking Hackett's long-range effort with his foot.
Eventually Sunderland ran out of ideas, as the visitors held on to take the points.
Sunderland Under-23s: Johnstone, Storey, Taylor, Bainbridge (C), Hunter, Mumba, Hackett, Neil (Connolly, 77), Molyneux, Kokolo, Kimpioka (Connelly, 66).
Subs not used: Young, Patterson, Bale.
Southampton Under-23s: Rose, Varery, Voins, O’Connor (C) , O’Driscoll, Klarer, Barnes, Slattery, Afolabi (Tella, 88), Smallbone, Johnson.
Subs not used: Ramsey, Parkes, Hamblin, Jankewitz.
Goals: Slattery (1), Barnes (62)
Referee: Mr Scott Taylor.