Kevin Ball

Ball pleased with performance

by Stuart Vose

Coach reflects on U21s' home win over Boro.

Kevin Ball felt the 500 spectators at Eppleton CW were treated to an entertaining game as Sunderland's U21 side took the points in a Wear-Tees derby on Monday evening.

The development squad climbed to the top of the Barclays U21 Premier League with a 3-2 victory over Middlesbrough, meaning the second string have started the season with 15 points from a possible 18.

“Both sides acquitted themselves well,” Ball said afterwards. “We've always been big admirers of how Middlesbrough do things, and them us.

"Both teams tried to pass the ball and there were some nice passages of play and good individual performances.”

The first half was full of action with two goals apiece plus a red card for Boro defender Jonathan Burn – a former Sunderland Academy player - who was dismissed just before the break.

Luke Williams fired the visitors into an early lead only for Mikael Mandron to equalise with a coolly-taken penalty.

Liam Agnew scored the first of two goals to put the Black Cats in front, but back came the Teessiders with a penalty of their own, converted by Williams.

“They had the brighter start and went ahead with a fantastic finish, which was disappointing from our point of view as we would have liked to close the ball down higher up the pitch,” Ball explained.

“But we got the penalty following a decent move which Mika dispatched well. We created a few chances and on the sidelines we felt that we just needed that final good pass or finish.

“Liam made it 2-1 with a tremendous shot from the edge of the box before they got back into it with the penalty.”

Sunderland pushed on after the break to make the most of their numerical advantage and exerted increasing control over proceedings as the half progressed.

And it was Agnew who netted the decider with a fine finish from 18 yards after seizing on a loose ball to bag his second goal of the game.

Ball added: “Scoring just before half time gave them the impetus and I thought they battled with 10 men and made it difficult for us.

“We were a little over-anxious and got the ball forward too quickly at times, but as the game wore on we finally got our chance.

“We had been creating opportunities and the ball broke to the edge of the box; we ask our midfielders to get in and around that area.

“Aggers scored a great goal with his left foot and it was nice to see. He did ever so well to get the shot on target and find the back of the net.

“On the balance of play we deserved to win against a Boro side who played well.”