SUNDERLAND finished top of their second stage group in the Barclays U18 Premier League with a determined performance at Reading today.
Tackling a Reading side who topped the section before kick-off, Sunderland – two points behind the Royals going into the game – could not have begun any better, taking the lead after only two minutes – and a brilliant goal it was too.
It came from a breakaway when Andrew Nelson went clear and hit a screamer into the top right-hand corner of the net.
Reading came back for the rest of the half and enjoyed a lot of possession but Sunderland defended well.
Coach Ged McNamee tweaked the formation for the second half by dropping striker Jordan Blinco into midfield and this undoubtedly did strengthen the spine of the team.
The visitors held the ball much better in the second half but were still dangerous on the break, as well as defending resolutely, frustrating Reading.
The home side were restricted so much that they did not create a real chance until five minutes from time.
Sunderland had to be grateful to Irish keeper James Talbot for his fine clean sheet – he dominated the box and made perceptive clearances to send Sunderland on dangerous attacks.
Academy director McNamee said afterwards: “We did really well. It was a dogged team performance but we also played some excellent football when we broke out.”
Sunderland: Talbot, Taylor, Casey (Colquhoun 45), Storey, McEvoy, Pybus, Embleton, Molyneux, Blinco (Graham 85), Gainyu (Robson E 69), Nelson.
Subs not used: Bale, Purvis.