A young Sunderland Under-18 side gave an outstanding performance to secure a 1-0 win in Saturday’s Under-18 Premier League game at Derby on Saturday, writes Neville Pilkington.
It was a tremendous display considering they missed regulars Jack Diamond, Jake Hackett, Benji Kimpioka and Lee Connelly, who all played for the Under-23s at Brighton on Friday.
Consequently, it was a much changed line-up who enjoyed an even first half against the Rams. Although the half was goalless, they had two good chances to go ahead.
For the first, Jordan Hickey twisted and turned to beat two opponents but shot just wide, then Bali Mumba was pulled back when bearing down on goal.
In the second period, Sunderland came under severe pressure and only some outstanding saves by keeper Anthony Patterson kept them in the game.
The Wearsiders were also handicapped when full-back Kane Evans was injured and Mumba, who had been causing all sorts of problems in tandem with Sam Greenwood, had to drop back.
But Sunderland weathered the storm, showing impressive determination, and hit back to take the game eight minutes from time following a well-worked move.
Ryan Leonard broke from the middle to feed Greenwood, who went past the full-back with ease. His cross created a tap in for Jordan Hickey, who gobbled up the chance with glee with his left foot from six yards.
Sunderland coach Mark Atkinson enthused: “It was so pleasing with this young team who showed real resilience and grit. There were lots of positives – we finished with only three Under-18s. The rest were 17 and 16-year-olds.”
Sunderland U18s: Patterson, Evans (Leonard 55), Edmundsson, Devali, Devine, Connolly, Hickey, Scothern (Lilley 79), Mumba, Dunne (Slack 60), Greenwood. Subs not used: Newman, Ord.