Sunderland U21 coach delivers verdict ahead of Leeds United and Reading double-header

Sunderland Under-21s were narrowly beaten by Nottingham Forest in Premier League 2 Division 2 on Monday evening.

An Ateef Konate’s second-half free-kick was enough to win it for Forest at Alfreton’s Impact Arena.

John Hewitson, who has been overseeing the Sunderland Under-21s amid the search for a new boss, said: “We didn’t really get going, and unfortunately we gave the ball away too cheaply.

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“We struggled to really create anything until about 65 minutes in, and the goal they scored was avoidable. It’s come from their free-kick from quite far out – the lad [Konate] has struck it quite well, but it’s caught us off guard.

Sunderland's Academy of Light.

“The lads can do it – we’ve stood up to what we feel were tougher tests than those 90 minutes. We applied ourselves, but just didn’t show the quality we’re capable of and we had to work harder than we needed to at the back.”

Hewitson added: “We didn’t test their goalkeeper enough, which was similar to the Middlesbrough game.

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“It’s just a case moving forward of us being a little bit braver on the ball, taking the ball when we’re under pressure, creating more opportunities in the final third.

“Ultimately, it came down to having to defend too often after giving the ball away too much.”

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Sunderland Under-21s face back-to-back home games on Monday and Friday against Leeds United (PL2) and Reading (PL Cup group stage) next week.

Sunderland are closing in on the appointment of a new Under-21 boss, with Graeme Murty in line for the job.