Lee Johnson gets injury boost as striker returns in Sunderland U23's draw with Newcastle United
Benji Kimpioka made his Sunderland return as Sunderland U23s drew 1-1 with Newcastle United at the Academy of Light on Monday afternoon.
Kimpioka completed 45 minutes alongside senior goalkeeper Remi Matthews as he steps up his recovery from a serious hamstring injury picked up late last year.
Josh Hawkes continued his superb form for the Black Cats by opening the scoring nine minutes into the contest, cutting inside from the left to beat Newcastle goalkeeper Dan Langley.
Hawkes has been a key player for Elliot Dickman's side since joining from Hartlepool United last summer and was rewarded with a place on the bench in the 2-0 win over Rochdale on Saturday.
Sunderland's lead lasted just two minutes, however, as Adam Wilson levelled the scores from close range.
It was a strong Newcastle United side, featuring Matty Longstaff and highly-rated young midfielder Elliot Anderson.
Both of those players went close in a second half that could have gone either way.
Sunderland's best chance late on came as young defender Patrick Almond turned a corner just wide of the post.
Hawkes, who scored in the 4-0 win over the same opposition earlier this season, saw another effort saved by Langley.
The result means that Sunderland stay ahead of Newcastle in the table on goal difference, though they have played a game more than Chris Hogg’s side.
Speaking in January, Head Coach Lee Johnson warned against expecting too much, too soon from Kimpioka but added that he was excited to work with the talented youngster.
"He is a player I’m looking forward to seeing and looking forward to working with,” he said.
"But in the position we find ourselves in, it is a big ask for someone to return from an injury like that and be expected to hit the ground running.
"He seems a lovely lad though, and he has the raw attributes we require in that forward area.
"It’ll be good to work with him but we won’t push him too hard because his health is the most important thing, and looking after his body for the long-term so he can be a real success here."