Jake Vokins makes Sunderland return as Dan Neil and Josh Hawkes net in another impressive under-23 victory
Jake Vokins made his Sunderland return as the club’s under-23 side beat Reading.
The full-back, who is on loan at the Stadium of Light from Southampton, played 45 minutes in the 2-1 triumph.
It was Vokins’ first outing since a brush with COVID-19 which left him needing further checks following an initial ECG before being cleared to return to action
But the loanee has now taken a major step towards an eventual first-team return in what will be a welcome boost for Lee Johnson, whose defensive options continue to be depleted with Jordan Willis, Dion Sanderson, Tom Flanagan, Arbenit Xhemajli and Conor McLaughlin all currently sidelined.
And he wasn’t the only first-team player who featured against the Royals at the Academy of Light, with stopper Remi Matthews also receiving some vital minutes. Oliver Younger, meanwhile, missed out ahead of a potential involvement with the first-team squad in their game against Blackpool on Tuesday evening. Anthony Patterson was also not involved.
It was Sunderland who began brightly in the Premier League 2 clash and they took the lead with just six minutes on the clock – Dan Neil heading home from a Josh Hawkes corner.
The lead would last just two minutes, however, as Femi Azeez few the visitors level.
But the Black Cats would retake the lead before the break as Hawkes bent home a fine strike from range, with the former Hartlepool United man later seeing a goal-bound shot blocked as the hosts sought a third.
Azeez fired over after finding space in the second half before Will Harris was denied by the Reading stopper as Sunderland continued to press forward.
Harris then saw a goal ruled-out for offside and Hawkes again came close after being teed-up by substitute Jake Hackett – but two goals were enough for the Black Cats.
The result means that Elliott Dickman’s side have now lost just one of their last eight games and have climbed to sixth in the second division of Premier League 2 after a promising season.
Sunderland U23: Matthews, K Richardson, Vokins (E Taylor 45), Wilding, B Taylor, Almond, Wearne, Trialist (Hackett 75), Harris, Neil, Hawkes
Subs not used: A Richardson, Beaumont, Wombwell
Goals: Neil 6, Hawkes 19