SUNDERLAND played well to beat second placed Barnsley and continue their challenge for the FA Premier Academy Group D league title.
Steve Bruce, Eric Black and Keith Bertschin took in the game and they saw the hosts open well with James Brace and Matthew Fletcher both going close. Alistair Taylor replied for the visitors with a dangerous diagonal run across the edge of the box but scuffed his shot wide.
Sunderland pressed and Fletcher could have been straight through on goal after 38 minutes but was cynically held by Tykes Kern Miller, who was the last man but the defender escaped with just a yellow card.
Billy Knott came on for Fletcher for the second period and the Essex boy was soon showing his good control and deft touches. But it was his goalscoring prowess which gave Kevin Ball’s side the lead ten minutes into the half.
He owed the goal to George Honeyman, who had drifted inside from his wide position to split the Barnsley defence with a superb low ball down the middle. Knott was on to it in a flash before drawing the keeper and clinically placing the ball into the net with his left foot.
The Yorkshiremen came back with Rueben Noble forcing a full-length save from Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford but the hosts replied when Nathan Wilson hammered a 25-yard free kick inches wide of the far post.
On 78 minutes, Honeyman beat three men in a driving run at the heart of the defence but hit his strike wide. The schoolboy from Prudhoe enjoyed a promising game, linking well with Knott and playing with youthful exuberance and no little skill.
With the home side now closing the game down, visiting attacks were growing rare. The young Black Cats had passed well and this vital element had generally given them the edge over hard working, determined opponents.
They now look forward in their push for honours with an away game at the Newcastle Academy tomorrow (11am).
Sunderland: Pickford, Lavender, Oliver (Marrs 75), Laing, Watson, Wilson, Honeyman, Brace, Harrison, Callaghan (Mitchell 65), Fletcher (Knott 46). Subs not used: Bagnall, Dickson.