U21s lose at Villa

by Ashley Houghton

Noble scores but youngsters suffer defeat.

Aston Villa U21 3 Sunderland U21 1

Kevin Ball’s Development Squad went down to two late goals as they battled in difficult conditions against Aston Villa in the Midlands.

Ryan Noble had given Ball’s side the lead at Hinckley before Courtney Cameron equalised and Daniel Johnson then scored twice to give Villa a 3-1 victory.

The young Black Cats were ahead early on when Jordan Laidler picked out Noble with a fine ball and the striker finished excellently.

The hosts were level just before half time when Cameron’s cross evaded Joel Dixon in the Sunderland goal and nestled in the corner of the net.

The visitors reacted well, though, and went close to regaining the lead just after the break, Adam Mitchell crashing an effort against the bar.

And it was only thanks to multiple fine saves from the Villa keeper that Sunderland didn’t get their second as Noble and Mikael Mandron went close.

The Black Cats were dealt a sucker punch when Johnson broke from midfield and hit a rasping drive into the corner giving Villa the advantage, largely against the run of play.

And, as Sunderland looked for an equaliser, Johnson grabbed his second and Villa’s third with another drive from 20 yards leaving Ball to reflect on an unfortunate defeat.

He told that the experience of playing a strong Villa side will only benefit his young side in the long term.

“Am I disappointed with the result? Yes, because we didn’t need to lose the game,” Ball explained.

“The game became quite open as we looked to win it but I think the learning curve we have to look at is stopping the opportunities for them to score.

“The two goals they scored in the second half - if they’re for you, you’re saying what a great strike, if they’re against you, you’re disappointed you didn’t do more to prevent it.

“[Because of the multiple youngsters in the side] It was always going to be a big ask, however, the young lads have to look at it as a good exercise and a big eye-opener as to what they have to do to make the step up.”

Sunderland: Dixon, Marrs, Ferguson, Laidler, Harrison, McNamee, Mitchell, Gorrin (Smith), Noble (E Robson), Mandron, Trialist.