Sunderland powered to a convincing win against Fulham at the Academy this afternoon, writes Neville Pilkington.
It was only the second time that the London side have lost this season and were lying third in the table before the game.
The club obviously has a good Youth setup with three of last season’s losing F.A. Youth Cup final side - Patrick Roberts, George Williams and Moussa Dembele - now in the first team squad.
Additionally, five of today’s squad were in the Youth Cup final squad which was unlucky to lose 4-3 to Chelsea after leading 3-1 in the game.
But they were outplayed for long periods and were only allowed to threaten rarely to break Sunderland’s strong hold on the match.
The home side started well with Martin Smith firing over from a good position.
They looked lively with Duncan Watmore’s pace being prominent.
They closed down well from the front, putting the Londoner’s defence under constant pressure.
Full-back Tom Robson – up in attack – put a low strike wide of the post, but four minutes before the break, they finally made the breakthrough.
Fulham’s keeper Magnus Norman had his clearance blocked on the edge of the area by Liam Agnew.
The ball fell to Watmore, who beat a man before unerringly placing his shot low into the corner to give Sunderland a deserved lead at the break.
Six minutes after the restart, they doubled the lead.
Fulham’s Solomon Sambou’s back pass to a fellow defender was read by Watmore near the half-way line and the striker gleefully accepted the gift to steam away half the length of the field and coolly placed the ball wide of the advancing keeper.
On 71 minutes, Connor Oliver hit a tremendous drive from 30 yards which keeper Norman palmed to safety at full stretch.
Three minutes from the end, sub Mikael Mandron marked his come back from long term injury with a well worked goal going on from a super one-two with sub George Honeyman to slot low past the keeper.
Just before the final whistle, the Wearsiders made it four for good measure with Carl Lawson breaking away to roll the ball past the hapless Norman to complete the well earned victory.
Post match, coach Robbie Stockdale said: “Fulham have a good youth set-up but my group are now playing against the best U-21s in the country and are more than holding their own. We get numerous calls from clubs wanting to take them on loan but it has to be right both for them and the club. Today, we played really well from front to back, closing down as planned throughout.”
Sunderland: Stryjek, Cartwright, Robson, Oliver, McNamee, Ferguson, Watmore (Sukar 88), Agnew, Lawson, Smith (Mandron 73), Greenwood (Honeyman 60). Subs not used: Burke, Beadling.
Fulham: Norman, Passley, Evans, Sambou (Cassasola 70), Buatu, Burgess, Bangna, Verde, O’Halloran, Plumain, Richards.