Kevin Ball

Ball praises 'excellent' U21s

by Stuart Vose

Coach pleased despite narrow defeat.

Kevin Ball was pleased with the fighting spirit showed by his under-21 side as they came within a whisker of claiming at least a share of the spoils at Aston Villa.

The Black Cats found themselves 2-0 down early on in the Midlands last night before halving the deficit through Alex Gorrin.

Sunderland laid siege to the home goal in the second period but found Villa keeper Craig Hill in inspired form as he pulled off a string of fine saves.

“We showed great resilience after going 2-0 down early in the game and I thought the players really dug in,” Ball said.

“There was only one team in it from then onwards and we played very well. We got our just rewards before half time with a good goal from Alex, who was excellent on the night.

“We brought Mika [Mandron] on early in the second half to give us some impetus and from then on it was one-way traffic.”

He added: “The only consolation for us is that Gordon [Cowans, Villa coach] was very complimentary towards us after the game.

“That’s easy when you’ve won but I’ve known him for a long time. Their goalkeeper was the man of the match.”

The under-21s now face Newcastle next week and Ball says that although he would have liked to see more of a cutting edge at Villa, he couldn’t argue with the display.

“I was pleased with how we played and that’s nice, but we still need to win football matches.

“It was one of those games but we need to make sure our decision-making around the box is right and that we take our chances.

“Putting the result to one side, though, our performance was excellent and I was delighted.”