SAFC U21s 2 NUFC U21s 2

by Kate Smith

Cats snatch derby draw at the SoL.

A late Craig Lynch goal rescued a point for Sunderland under-21s against local rivals Newcastle United.

Kevin Ball’s side came from behind twice to ensure a share of the spoils at the Stadium of Light.

Nile Ranger opened the scoring early in the game but young striker Connor Wickham cancelled out the Magpies’ lead after latching onto a great ball from Roarie Deacon to hit his seventh goal of the season.

It wasn’t long before United regained the lead as young Australian star Bradden Inman sent the visitors in front just ahead of the break.

Adam Reed missed a penalty just after the hour mark and just as it looked like the Black Cats were going to be on the losing side of the 2-1 scoreline, Lynch snatched a late equaliser to save his captain’s blushes.

Hundreds of fans gathered at the Stadium of Light for the under-21 derby encounter and with a lively atmosphere behind them both teams started enthusiastically.

Wickham and Deacon made a nuisance of themselves up front for the Black Cats, while Inman and JJ Hooper tested the home side’s resolve at the back.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to make the breakthrough when Ranger, making his first appearance of the season, scored in the eighth minute.

He drilled the ball into the bottom corner past the outstretched Jordan Pickford.

Despite going behind, Ball’s side weren’t disheartened and continued to make inroads through Deacon on the left and through Wickham, who was impressive in attack, as first team manager Martin O’Neill watched from the stands.

The Black Cats’ endeavour paid off when Wickham pulled Sunderland level with his third derby goal against the Magpies this season.

The 19-year-old capitalised on the good work of Deacon to stab the ball home from close-range.

Following the goal, Sunderland enjoyed a good spell of play, however, Newcastle were never far from a counter-attack as stopper Pickford was called into action on a number of occasions.

The England under-19 international kept his side in the game as he parried away an effort from Inman and did well to deny United a chance from a corner.

It took a scuffed effort from Inman to catch the keeper out as the Australian pounced on Mehdi Abeid’s deflected shot to put his side in front once again.

At the other end it was keeper Jak Alnwick who prevented Sunderland from going into the break on level terms.

Wickham powered forward and chested the ball down, only to have his effort gathered by the stopper on the stroke of half-time.

It was the visitors who started brightest the second period.

David Vaughan tried his luck on the hour mark when he went for a trademark long-range shot as he the ball from 35 yards out, the home fans appreciated the effort it but it didn’t really test Alnwick.

Moments later the game looked to swing in the Black Cats’ favour as the referee pointed to the spot after Wickham was fouled by Conor Newton inside the box.

However, skipper Reed’s penalty kick struck the post and bounced out, much to the frustration of the young Black Cats.

The home side were not deterred and Wickham continued to harass Michael Riley and Curtis Good in the United backline.

He set up Lynch whose looping shot was saved by Alnwick, before watching his own powerful effort flash wide 10 minutes before time.

In the dying minutes of the game it was Lynch who had a moment of brilliance to pull his side back from the brink.

Capitalising on a United error, he intercepted Riley’s pass and raced towards goal, skipping past two defenders  to send a left-footed shot into the bottom corner of Alnwick’s goal.

The late equaliser secured a point for sixth placed Sunderland and extended their unbeaten run in the Barclays Premier Reserve League.

Sunderland: Pickford, Marrs, Ferguson, Vaughan, Oliver, Armstrong, Gorrin (Laidler 70), Reed, Wickham (Mandron 83), Lynch, Deacon

Unused subs: Mitchell, Wilson, Harrison

Booked: Reed

Newcastle: Alnwick, Logan, Moyo, Newton, Good, Riley, Maddison, Abeid, Ranger (Miele 66), Inman, Hooper

Unused subs: Satka, Woodman, Knight, Kitchen

Booked: Abeid