Sunderland U23 1-1 Reading U23
George Honeyman cancelled out Reading’s opener as Sunderland under-23s earned a hard fought point in the Premier League 2 on Sunday.
Following a scrappy opening, the Royals sneaked in front through Omar Richards as they strode forward for the first time.
Richards waltzed his way into the box unnoticed and latched onto a cross from the right before sliding in to poke the ball past Max Stryjek.
The young Black Cats responded well but were largely wasteful as Joel Asoro leathered two chances over the bar from the edge of the box.
Patience was key and eventually the hosts' pressure paid its toll as Honeyman rammed home from a tight angle in the 38th minute after excellent combination play between Rees Greenwood and Asoro.
Sunderland continued to pluck away in the second period but were made to settle for a point after Ethan Robson sent his long-range attempt over and Josh Maja opted against shooting after dancing his way into the box.
After being left frustrated on Wednesday evening at home to Derby County, Andy Welsh welcomed Reading to Eppleton CW as the lads continued their search for their first league win in four games.
A light sprinkling of rain covered the pitch in the opening few minutes as both sides acclimatised themselves to one another without really causing each other too many problems.
With 12 minutes on the clock, the Royals broke down the right flank and as the ball fell in the box, Richards slid in to poke the ball beyond a helpless Stryjek.
Sunderland wasted no time though and straight from kick off almost drew level as Asoro’s pace saw him wheel away from his man, however after seemingly executing the hard part the Swede was unable to finish and he lashed his effort harmlessly over the bar.
It was a guilt-edge chance for the young Black Cats to strike back immediately but Welsh’s side continued to work tirelessly as Greenwood, Honeyman and Elliot Embleton roamed around looking to add a douse of creativity.
Sunderland were patient and bided their time, Greenwood latched onto a loose ball, unselfishly threaded Asoro in and after a neat faint sent his effort against whistling over the bar.
Moments later though the lads were level, this time Robson’s cross field pass was brought under Greenwood’s spell, his intelligent ball inside found Asoro who then picked out Honeyman to ram the ball home.
Sunderland rallied in the closing stages of the opening period and after a spell of intense pressure on the edge of the box, Dan Wright’s drilled attempt straight at Reading’s ‘keeper proved to be the last meaningful action of the half.
While the lads ended the first period on top, the second 45 struggled to get going as neither team were able to put each other to the sword.
With bags of commitment and endeavour, Robson patrolled the centre of the park as he made a number of strong tackles in an attempt to drive the Cats forward.
Maja was introduced just after the hour mark in replace of Wright, as Welsh looked to a different approach in an attempt to unlock a resolute Royals backline.
Asoro moved out to the right flank while Maja occupied the centre berth with Greenwood to the left of him, and the impact was immediate as Sunderland suddenly began to push Reading back.
Robson flashed a fierce drive over the bar from 20 yards before Maja continued to add a spark up top but after waltzing his way into the box, failed to shoot and the chance went amiss as Reading held out for a point.
Sunderland: Stryjek, J Robson, T Robson, Wright (Maja, 64), Ledger, Brady, Embleton, E Robson, Asoro, Honeyman, Greenwood.
Unused: Casey, Pain, Molyneux, Pybus