Training at the Academy of Light

U18's share spoils in thriller

by Neville Pilkington

Exciting clash with Fulham ends all square.

Sunderland U18 4 Fulham U18 4

Sunderland fought back to share the points against Fulham in a tremendous eight-goal thriller at the Academy of Light.

Ahead by two goals at one stage, their resolve was tested to the full as the Londoners recovered to take a 4-3 lead.  However, Sunderland finally levelled to deservedly draw a game which could have gone either way. 

The home side were ahead after only three minutes when Martin Smith, who shone throughout, let fly from twenty yards with a shot Fulham keeper Marek Rodak could only parry - Dylan McEvoy came in at the far post to score easily.

The lead was nearly doubled when Gooch centred accurately for McEvoy to hit a fierce volley which was tipped over by Rodak.

On 29 minutes Fulham levelled when Sunderland keeper Peter Burke could only push a poor defensive back-header into the path of Fulham's George Williams, who tapped home.

But the hosts hit back immediately with Gooch being brought down and Smith making no mistake with a spot kick.

Four minutes later, the lead was increased when Gooch scored the goal of the match, cutting in from the right to crash home a left footed strike into the far top corner.

It was unfortunate for Sunderland when Fulham reduced the deficit with Pat Roberts scoring easily from Moussa Dembele's lay off minutes before half time.

Seven minutes after the break it was Dembele who scored from close range to level, but shortly afterwards only a brilliant save by Rodak prevented Smith from putting the Wearsiders back in front.

However, it was the Cottagers who were the ones to go ahead with Pat Roberts grabbing his second after a good run down the right.

Fulham now threatened to cut loose with the Sunderland defence in danger of being overrun. 

But the hosts showed great determination to come back with McEvoy bringing another super save from Rodak.

They got their reward when sub James Stinson was brought down inside the area and Smith again showed no nerves in banging home his second penalty of the match.

Only a magnificent save in the last minute by keeper Burke preserved Sunderland's hard-won point but it would have been a great injustice for the young Black Cats to have emerged unrewarded from this exciting match.

Coach Carlton Fairweather said afterwards: "We did really well building from the Arsenal game last week.  We scored good counter-attacking goals but gave away some silly goals as well, but we battled on to take a point."

Sunderland: Burke, Ellison, Colquhoun, J Robson, T Robson (Lowery, 82), E Robson (Stinson, 71), Greenwood, Smith, Wright, McEvoy, Gooch.

Subs not used:  Stryjek, Blinco.