Sunderland Under-23s suffered their second successive defeat as Elliot Dickman’s side were beaten 1-0 by Aston Villa at Eppleton CW, Hetton.
Harvey Knibbs’s first-half finish proved the difference between the two teams, and despite a strong finish from the hosts, the young Black Cats have now lost five of their seven games in Premier League 2, Division 2, this campaign.
Dickman once again named a young side, making just two changes to the team which started the chastening 7-0 defeat by Wolves last time out.
Jordan Hunter and Jacob Young were drafted into Sunderland’s backline, and the young Black Cats started much better on home turf, in particular widemen Willaims Kokolo and Jack Diamond.
The two 18-year-olds combined well in the sixth minute when Diamond went on a mazy run, cutting in from the right before teeing up Kokolo, whose shot was palmed away by Villa goalkeeper Matija Sarkic.
Diamond went close again five minutes later, after striking a dipping shot from distance which Sarkic did well to hold.
But the visitors grew into the game as the half wore on and slowly forced Sunderland to retreat.
Dickman’s side defended in numbers, as centre-backs Young and Jack Bainbridge were forced to make a couple of crucial blocks.
However, the hosts were fortunate not to fall behind when Knibbs curled an effort onto the inside of the post. Somehow the ball stayed out.
The visitors continued to turn the screw, though, and eventually scored the opener on 35 minutes.
It came after Sunderland failed to clear a corner and the ball eventually dropped to Knibbs, who stabbed home from inside the area.
Tensions spilled over two minutes later when Sunderland’s Brandon Taylor and Villa’s Callum O’Hare clashed near the touchline and both were booked for their actions.
Villa picked up where they left off after the half-time interval, as Knibbs hit the post for a second time with a low drive.
Knibbs went close again in the 59th minute but was denied by the alert Anthony Patterson in the Sunderland goal.
The hosts weathered the storm and showed more urgency in the closing stages.
Jordan Hunter and Diamond both saw efforts saved by Sarkic, before Gamble’s fizzing effort was blocked.
It was too little too late, though, as the visitors held on to take the points.
Sunderland XI: Patterson, Taylor, Bainbridge, Young, Hunter, Bale (Neil, 75), Hackett, Gamble, Diamond, Kokolo, Kimpioka (Connolly, 45).
Subs Not Used: Johnstone, Storey, Connolly.
Booked: Gamble, Bainbridge, Taylor.
Aston Villa XI: Sarkic, Walker, Revan, Bazeley-Graham, Bedeau, Clarke, Blackett-Taylor (Prosser, 79), Doyle-Harris, Knibbs (Sea, 66) , O’Hare (Cox, 79), Rowe.
Subs Not Used: Lomacx.
Booked: O'Hare, Bazeley-Graham
Goal: Knibbs (35)
Referee: Mr Matthew Diciccoartin.