Sunderland U21s 3 Backburn Rovers U21s 1
KEVIN Ball’s side maintained its 100 per cent start to the season tonight with a third successive victory.
And the win was fair reward for a display of energy and commitment from the whole side across the course of the game.
Ball fielded a young team with no senior players involved either in the starting line-up or on the bench.
But that did not prove a drawback for a side full of youthful intent and exuberance from the start.
The Black Cats problem though lay not in endeavour, but in finishing.
For the first 50 minutes of the match, Sunderland’s junior side mirrored the first team so far this season in producing some fine attacking football but without a cutting edge.
Adam Mitchell set the pattern, lifting a shot across goal from the left in the fifth minute after some good work.
And five minutes later striker Mikael Mandron’s shot was blocked and Duncan Watmore’s follow up saved by Rovers keeper Simon Eastwood.
Watmore was particularly lively and busy in the opening half-hour and in the 31st minute he linked well with Mandron before lifting a ball over a defender with one foot and volleying across the face of goal with the other.
But despite that effort and a couple of others before the break, Sunderland went into the break with nothing on the scoreboard to show for an opening half of near complete domination.
They finally made the breakthrough in the 50th minute when Mandron forced the ball through several challenges in the Rovers area before stroking a low left-foot shot across keeper Eastwood from right of goal.
The goal lifted the home team and a couple of minutes later the young Frenchman burst through again but then drove straight at Eastwood.
Alex Gorrin fired wide in the 63rd minute when well-placed but atoned two minutes later when a Rovers handball in the area allowed him to stroke home Sunderland’s second from the spot – confidently striking a rising shot to Eastwood’s left.
That looked as though that might be that as a contest but Rovers showed great spirit and striker Devran Green pulled a goal back with a composed finish from a breakaway move in the 68th minute.
But Sunderland held their nerve and restored their two-goal advantage in the 75th minute when Liam Marrs went on a fine run down the right and pulled the ball back for Carl Lawson whose shot was parried by the keeper, only for Adam Mitchell to nip in smartly and toe-poke the loose ball home from a couple of yards out.
Late substitute George Honeyman might have added a fourth goal for the home side in the closing stages but it was ruled out for offside.
That would have been harsh on a Rovers side though which never gave up and went close with the last shot of the game, a low drive which flashed wide of Joel Dixon’s goal.
Sunderland: Dixon, Marrs, Ferugson, Agnew (sub Cartwright 85), Harrison, McNamee, Watmore (sub Holland 82), Gorrin, Mandron, Lawson (sub Honeyman 80), Mitchell. Subs not used: Burke, Robson.
Blackburn Rovers: Eastwood, Henley (sub Jorge 32), Doyle (sub Preston 80), Daly, Tumwa, O’Connor, Bauress, Payne, Green, Wassi (sub Pero 63) Hanley. Subs not used: Raya, Preston, Vicars.
Ref: N Sharp. Att: 375.