Derby County U23 0-0 Sunderland U23
Thick fog played its part as Sunderland under-23s were held to a goalless draw at Derby County in the Premier League 2.
Andrew Nelson had his chances in both halves kept out by a resilient Jono Mitchell, while his opposite number Max Stryjek enjoyed a largely trouble free evening at St George’s Park.
With little to separate the two sides, Rees Greenwood squandered a fine chance following a defensive mishap as Mitchell, again, came to the Rams’ rescue.
And his saves did just that, as he forced the Black Cats to return to Wearside with just a point for their efforts.
Andy Welsh made three changes to his side that came from two goals down at Derby last Thursday to book their place in the knockout stages of the Premier League International Cup.
Elliot Embleton and Josh Maja started after being rested last week due their inclusion in the FA Youth Cup match against Shrewsbury Town. Tom Beadling was also selected in the line-up for the first time since returning from injury.
Welsh spoke about the importance of a fast start in his preview and the Black Cats delivered just that - Rees Greenwood and Andrew Nelson forced the Rams’ stopper into action before Elliot Embleton fired over on the 15 minute mark after superb link-up play with the inventive Josh Maja.
Thick fog made conditions extremely challenging as the opening period wore on, both sides traded blows but failed to land the knockout punch as the match ensued into a midfield battle.
Max Stryjek was rarely troubled while at the other end a quick faint from Embleton saw him slip Nelson in, however the forward was a fraction too fast and the linesman rightly raised his flag as he pulled the trigger.
The Black Cats returned for the second period in a similar vein as they finished the opening half, Nelson was his tenacious self as he got past his man before the referee penalised the forward - much to his dismay, though, as he smacked the ground in frustration.
Welsh introduced Denver Hume on 49 minutes in replace of skipper Tommy Robson, and Rams’ full-back Alex Cover could smell blood as he drove at Hume before flashing a strike across goal.
Just as the pendulum looked to be in the Rams’ favour, Greenwood missed a guilt-edge chance to give Sunderland a slender advantage in the fog.
A lapse in concentration saw a back pass roll across the face of goal, the winger was quickly onto it and while he composed himself well Derby’s stopper made himself big and denied Greenwood.
Michael Ledger then climbed highest from a corner on 78 minutes, but his header lacked conviction as it looped up harmlessly onto the roof of the net.
Nelson then saw a deflected strike clawed away as the Black Cats ended the match the stronger of the two sides, but not strong enough as it remained goalless.
Derby County: Mitchell, Cover, Lelan, Bainbridge, MacDonald, Elsnik. Gordon, Babos (Davidson-Miller, 79), Donohue, Santos (Bird, 72) Bennett
Subs not used: Bogle, Ravas, Bateman
Sunderland: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson (Hume, 49), Ledger, Brady, Embleton (Lawson, 70, Beadling, E Robson, Greenwood, Maja (Molyneux, 81), Nelson
Subs not used: Talbot, Wright