safc.com’s Sam Lightle recaps on the action from Sunderland under-23s’ pre-season opener at Sunderland RCA.
Sunderland RCA 2-1 Sunderland U23
Two goals in as many second-half minutes saw Sunderland RCA come from behind to defeat Elliott Dickman’s Black Cats at Meadow Park. Jack Diamond struck the bar from 10 yards in the opening minutes as the visitors looked to draw first blood. Sunderland RCA worked their way back into the match but fell behind before half-time, with Dan Wright heading home from inside the six-yard box. The hosts responded with real vengeance at the start of the second-half, though, swiftly turning the friendly on its head through Nathan O’Neil and Colin Larkin. Dickman’s new-look youthful side continued to dig deep till the end but the experience of the Northern League opposition held out to win 2-1.
It has been a summer of change for the Premier League International Cup finalists last term. Dickman rang the changes at Meadow Park, handing starts to Michael Would, Brandon Taylor, Alex Storey, Chris Allan, Benji Kimpioka and Jack Diamond. With five first-year pros and three second-year scholars involved, that meant Dickman fielded a youthful looking squad which was going to have to become wise to the physicality of Sunderland RCA quickly.
BACK IN THE SWING
A confident start from Sunderland saw them produce a silk-smooth array of football, with Diamond striking the crossbar despite appearing to have an open goal in which to aim at. It was a pleasing start with Kimpioka providing plenty of width on the flanks and Diamond’s wizardry causing further problems for Sunderland RCA, as Dickman’s troops continued to shake off the cobwebs in their first outing of the season.
Swedish youngster Kimpioka, who is still only a second-year scholar, provided a sumptuous cross on 32 minutes for the opening goal. The winger planted the ball onto Wright’s head who did well to guide it past the hosts’ stopper and hand Dickman’s side a deserved lead at the midway interview.
TWIST IN THE TALE
Sunderland RCA slipped through the gears in the second period, quickly turning the friendly on its head. O’Neill levelled things up when he found the top corner before Larkin completed the turnaround to get the hosts’ noses in front. Dickman’s young guns fought valiantly and pegged RCA back, but frustration grew in the dying embers as they began to force their play which meant RCA edged to victory at Meadow Park
Referee: Mark Ryan
Sunderland RCA starting XI: Bussey, Noble, McNas, Hodgson, Swansbury, Davis, Charlton, Larkin, Callen, ,Cassidy
Subs: O’Neill, Peccolo, Armstrong, McGuinness, Wilson, Watson
Sunderland starting XI: Woud, J Robson, T Robson, Wright, Taylor, Storey, Kimpioka, Allan, Molyneux, Diamond, Hume
Subs: Poame, Trialist, Krusnell, Brotherton, Bale, Hackett.