The boot room at the Academy of Light

Youngsters lose season opener

Young Black Cats downed in thriller.

Sunderland U18 3 Southampton U18 4
Neville Pilkington

Sunderland's first game in the new nationwide set-up ended with them being narrowly beaten by Southhampton in a high-scoring opener at the Academy.

The game was a mixture of good attacking play and poor defending by both sides which created frequent chances.

As early as the seventh minute the Wearsiders should have gone ahead with Mikael Mandron going clean through but scuffing his shot wide.  Instead, the visitors broke straight away down to the other end where winger Ryan Seager fastened on to a ball over the top to slot past onrushing Sunderland keeper Johnny Maddison.

The keeper pulled off a great save shortly afterwards when punching a corner clear from under the bar but the Saints did go further ahead on 28 minutes.  Danger man winger Gboly Aryibi twisted and turned before driving low across the face of goal for Seager to finish from close range.

It looked like plain sailing for the visitors but five minutes before the break, Sunderland pulled one back with a brilliant set-piece by Callum Hope - the youngster from Hendon crashing home into the top corner from 22 yards.

However, two minutes after the restart, the visitors restored their two-goal lead when Maddison brought down Sam Gallagher inside the box and Seager claimed his hat-trick from the spot.

The introduction of wide man Ross Holland on 70 minutes made a difference to the game. With almost his first touch, Holland cut in to hit a screamer which was turned over the bar in style by the Southampton keeper Chris Johns.

One minute later, the Birtley boy put Sunderland back in the game when he controlled a free kick which found him unmarked and drove into the far corner to make it 3-2.

But the home side conceded a fourth when they allowed Aryibi to rise near the penalty spot and flick a header into the far corner with the Sunderland defence statuesque.

Again the young Black Cats' spirit showed when they scored again three minutes from time.  Mandron's good close control inside the box finally found Carl Lawson who curled a low shot into the corner.

The scoring was finally complete but the game really could have gone either way.

Sunderland coach Craig Liddle said: "We didn't defend as well as we could and were good going forward.  On another day it could have been a different result."

Southhampton coach Jason Dodds added: "We have to learn how to finish games and at times shot ourselves in the foot.  Sunderland played some good combinations.  It was a good game and a real test for us and we had to finish strongly in the second half."

Sunderland:  Maddison, Burn, Gibbons (Lane, 75), McNamee, Reece Noble, Lawson, Cartwright, Hope (Agnew, 60), Smith, Robson (Holland, 70), Mandron.