Late defeat for U21s

by Stuart Vose

Development squad round off 2013-14 league campaign.

Sunderland U21 1 West Ham United U21 2

Sunderland’s U21s suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of West Ham in their final game of the 2013-14 season.

Mikael Mandron fired the hosts ahead with a first-half penalty only for Josh Cullen to level just before the hour.

The game looked to be heading towards a draw until stoppage time, when Tom McNamee glanced Kieran Bywater’s cross into his own net.

The defeat ended Sunderland’s hopes of a play-off place, but the development squad can still finish as high as seventh in the Barclays U21 Premier League and are guaranteed a top-eight finish.

Coach Kevin Ball named a young side, with scholar Rees Greenwood making his full debut at U21 level and fellow apprentices Tom Beadling and Tom Robson also starting.

Right-back Andrew Cartwright almost capitalised on a stroke of luck just after the 10-minute mark when his cross from the right was deflected goalwards, but the ball struck the far post and bounced away.

Nonetheless, Sunderland soon took the lead after Greenwood threaded an incisive ball through to Mandron, who was tripped in the penalty area by Dan Potts.

The French striker dusted himself down and converted the spot-kick with aplomb for his fourth goal in as many games.

Mandron nearly doubled the advantage on 19 minutes when he seized possession 25 yards out and forced a good save from Sam Howes.

The Hammers keeper also tipped away Connor Oliver’s shot from distance after Mandron executed a neat dummy to allow a Greenwood pass to run into the midfielder’s path.

Sunderland were on top but the tables were turned after the break, with the visitors equalising on 56 minutes.

Striker Jordan Brown got on the end of a left-wing cross and Cullen was on hand to force the ball past Joel Dixon from close range.

Mandron almost re-established Sunderland’s advantage on the hour, but Howes saved well with his legs after the striker was fed by Alex Gorrin.

At the other end, Dixon held Jamie Harney’s shot away to his right as the Hammers looked for a winner.

The deciding goal arrived in the second minute of injury time as Bywater’s cross was met by the unfortunate McNamee, whose header looped over Dixon and into the back of the net.

Sunderland: Dixon, Cartwright, Watson, Gorrin (E Robson, 65), McNamee, Beadling, Greenwood, Oliver, Mandron, Laidler, T Robson (Ledger, 84).

Subs not used: Talbot, Blinco, Sukar.