Under-21s battle to draw

by Stuart Vose

Development squad goalless against Red Devils.

Sunderland U21 0 Manchester United U21 0

Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won both featured as Sunderland's under-21 side earned a goalless draw against Manchester United at Eppleton CW.

The Black Cats kept things tight at the back and created the better chances against a United side who went into the game with a 100% record in the Barclays U21 Premier League.

Sub Ryan Noble came closest late on for Sunderland, who have now drawn each of their last three league games.

Kevin Ball named Wickham and Dong-won in the starting line-up to give both valuable match practice with manager Martin O'Neill looking on.

Wickham, who played 81 minutes, made a positive start, getting himself into a good position to test United keeper Sam Johnstone with a powerful drive from a tight angle early on.

It was who Sunderland created the better openings as the game settled, with Billy Knott firing just over before Adam Reed's speculative effort from 25 yards was held under the crossbar by Johnstone.

The United keeper was in action again on the half-hour, getting down well to his right to palm out Reed's fierce drive through a crowd of players.

Left-back Blair Adams also tried his luck, seeing a first-time blast deflected just past the post with Johnstone beaten.

Adams then saw an attempted pass cut out to set up a United break, but keeper Ben Wilson – on loan at Chesterfield but playing under the terms of his youth loan agreement - saved his side by blocking Joshua King's effort with his legs.

The second half kicked off in driving rain and almost featured an early goal for the hosts as Johnstone sliced a clearance straight to Wickham, but the angle was too tight for the striker and his shot was saved.

At the other end a low shot by Angelo Henriquez was well blocked by Wilson, who dived bravely at the defender's feet to claim the rebound after the ball ran loose.

The conditions made things difficult for both sides, with the chances drying up as the rain worsened.

Sunderland's best chance came eight minutes from time as Ryan Noble, on as a sub, tricked his way past two defenders only to see his low shot strike the legs of Johnstone and bobble agonisingly past the far post just before he could turn the loose ball home.

United almost snatched it at the death as Tyler Blackett's free-kick skidded dangerously off the turf before flashing just wide, but a point was probably a fair result in the end.

Sunderland: Wilson, Marrs, Adams, Laing, Ferguson, Reed ©, Knott (Gorrin, 76), Armstrong, Mitchell (Laidler, 71), Wickham (Ryan Noble, 81), Dong-won.

Subs Not Used: Oliver, Dixon.

Man Utd: Johnstone, Henriquez (James, 74), Ekangamene, Veselli, Thorpe, Fornasier, Cole, King, Macheda, Petrucci, Brady (Blackett, 66).

Subs Not Used: Gollini, McCulloch, Hendrie.

Att: 821