Sunderland coach reveals two U21s players who stepped up before dramatic West Ham penalty shootout win

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Reaction after Sunderland’s under 21 beat West Ham on penalties to reach the semi-finals of Premier League 2.

Sunderland Under 21s assistant coach John Hewitson says Ellis Taylor and Caden Kelly stepped forward to lead the team talk ahead of the side’s dramatic penalty shootout win over West Ham.

The young Black Cats came from a goal down to draw 1-1 in normal time, with Taylor scoring a stunning equaliser, before coming from 2-1 and 3-2 down in extra-time, with Kelly and Tom Watson drawing the side level. Sunderland then scored all five of their penalties in the shootout, while goalkeeper Adam Richardson saved Keenan Appiah-Forson’s spot kick, setting up a semi-final against Reading in Premier League 2.

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“It was exciting, draining, especially watching from the sidelines,” Hewitson told the Echo after the match at Eppleton CW. “I’m just ever so proud of how they’ve come back three times. When they scored the third goal I think a lot of teams would have probably folded and gone under. 

“I’m over the moon and the staff are over the moon about how the players kept going, kept going, got the equaliser. Then we were just clinical in the penalty shootout and thankfully Adam saved their fourth penalty - it was a great save. Lots of drama, we could be here all night talking about it but thankfully we were on the winning end of the game.”

Asked what was said before the penalty shootout, Hewitson replied: “A lot of it was player-led. We have some really good characters in the group so Ellis Taylor, the captain, and Caden Kelly pretty much did the talk, just in terms of ‘be confident, understand where you’re going, don’t change your mind,’ all them little things.

“The players stepped forward and did that for us and sometimes that’s probably more beneficial when they take ownership so we’re really happy with that stance.

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“The last few games with it being a knockout competition we have planned for it (a penalty shootout) but it’s very difficult to recreate the atmosphere. I think the locals did us a favour trying to put them off, banging the boards, and there was a really good atmosphere tonight. We’ve given them a real spectacle of a game so hopefully they’ll keep coming back next season.”

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