U21s ease past Gateshead

by Oscar Chamberlain

Graham and Larsson on target in win.

Sunderland under-21s continued their impressive pre-season campaign with a stunning 3-1 win over Gateshead.

The hosts took an early lead through Marcus Maddison but the Black Cats fought back with Danny Graham leveling before the break.

Dismal conditions hampered both sides in the second period, but a clinical finish from Mikael Mandron and superb free kick from Sebastian Larsson downed last season’s Conference Premier play-off finalists.

The under-21s were at full strength following their time in Portugal, with Larsson and Graham also starting against the Tynesiders.

The home side made an excellent start to the match and with four minutes played they took the lead through Maddison, who turned excellently before hammering the ball into the net after clever build-up play from former Black Cat John Oster.

Gateshead continued to surge forward and within 60 seconds they almost doubled their lead, as Jon Shaw played a quick one-two with Lewis Guy before being denied by Max Stryjek.

With eight minutes played the experience and tenacity of Larsson proved invaluable, as the midfielder recovered excellently to deny Gregg McDermott a certain goal after a misplaced pass from Scott Harrison.

The Swede then turned provider, swinging in a sumptuous corner towards Mandron who was denied by Bartlett, with Graham unable to covert the rebound.

Larsson continued to pull the strings as Robbie Stockdale’s side began to dominate, and he almost found the head of Graham soon after but the forward was just unable to connect with the Swede’s driven cross.

With 36 minutes played the pressure finally told as the Black Cats scored a deserved equaliser, as Tom Beadling curled an inch-perfect cross-field ball towards Graham who glanced the ball into the top corner.

Just two minutes later Stockdale’s side almost edged into the lead, but Graham arrived a fraction late after Mandron outmuscled James Curtis and flashed the ball across the face of goal.

Gary Mills made eight changes at the break as Gateshead looked to round off their pre-season preparations with a win, ahead of next Saturday’s Conference Premier opened against Torquay United.

But despite an injection of energy the home side failed to replicate the dominance they displayed in the opening stages of the match, however goalkeeper Stryjek did need to be alert shortly after the restart to deny Alex Rodman on two occasions.

With 62 minutes played the Black Cats almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances as Duncan Watmore’s wayward cross bounced off crossbar and into the hands of Bartlett.

Three minutes later Stockdale’s side did take the lead, as Watmore seized possession following a costly slip from JJ O’Donnell before finding Mandron who made no mistakes from 10-yards.

With 69 minutes played the Black Cats sealed the win in sensational fashion, as Larsson curled a stunning 30-yard free kick over the wall and into the corner to make it 3-1.

Rain continued to fall as lightening lit up the sky but both sides remained positive in their play, with Stryjek making a number of impressive stops before the attrocious conditions forced the referee to call time on 87 minutes.

Sunderland: Stryjek, Beadling, T Robson (Ferguson 65), Agnew, McNamee, Harrison, Watmore, Larsson (Smith 74), Graham (Oliver 74), Mandron, Gooch (Lawson 65).
Subs not used: Burke.

Gateshead: Bartlett, Jones, Curtis, Clark, Oster, McDermott, Guy, Shaw, Maddison, Rodman.
Subs not used: Chandler, Turnbull, Ramshaw, Brown, Allan, O’Donnell, Ranking, Baxter, Baird.

Gateshead (second half): Bartlett, Baxter, O’Donnell, Curtis, Allan, Chandler, Ramshaw, Turnbull, Rankin, Brown, Rodman.

Attendance: 749.