Sunderland fought gamely but went out of the FA Youth Cup with a 1-0 a defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road today, writes Neville Pilkington.
The young Wearsiders were reduced to 10 men in the 26th minute when defender Rayed Derbali was dismissed for pulling back striker Ryan Cassidy when 30 yards from goal.
It was a harsh decision, especially as there looked to be cover in the defence, but, from then on, Sunderland were up against it.
Lee Connelly had gone close before the incident, but the numerical disadvantage showed when the Hornets took the lead with what proved to be the winning goal on 38 minutes.
It came from a fast one-two on the edge of the area which was followed by a good finish from Lewis Gordon.
Bali Mumba shot just wide before the break as the Wearsiders hit back. They were even closer to levelling following the interval when Jake Hackett hit the post and Connelly converted the rebound, but he was ruled offside.
Replays showed the goal should have been allowed.
Watford were mostly on top and Sunderland keeper Anthony Patterson had to make a great save low down from Reece Stray’s penalty to keep them in the game, following a foul by Tom Howard in the area.
The Wearsiders did create half-chances in the later stages, but did not do enough to save the game.
Sunderland coach Mark Atkinson commented: “It was tough, but we kept at it.
“Three players didn’t travel due to a sickness virus and Jake Hackett, Benji Kimpioka and Williams Kokola all played while suffering with the same illness.
Watford U18s: Lacy, Jones, Tricker, Hudson, Empson (Leighton 87), Forster, Stray, Kaikay, Gordon, Miller (Adedeji 66), Cassidy. Subs not used: Hoskins, Sesay, Cruz Cabrera
Sunderland U18s: Patterson, Howard, Young, Derbali, Kokola, Hickey, Mumba, Hackett (Scothern 70), Kimpioka (Dunne 70), Connelly, Diamond. Subs not used: Devine, Newman, Leonard