Sunderland U23 1-2 Stoke City U23
Sunderland under-23s were dealt the ultimate sucker punch as Stoke City under-23s came from behind to secure victory at Eppleton CW.
After leading through Jake Hackett’s first-half opener, two goal in eight second-half minutes turned the game on its head from Oliver Shenton and Tyrese Campbell to see the visitors leave with all three points.
Reece James clocked his first competitive minutes in red and white after missing the opening couple of matches through injury. James, who joined the club from Wigan Athletic over the summer, began the evening at left back while there were debuts for Jordan Hunter, Jack Bainbridge and Max Johnstone.
The quartet, though, were helpless to Campbell’s arrowed strike on six minutes that cracked the foot of the post before spinning across the face of goal and away from danger.
While little happened apart from that in the opening quarter of the match, stopper Johnstone was the busier of the two ‘keepers as he made a number of smart saves to keep the scores level as Sunderland struggled to get a foothold in the match.
But somewhat against the run of play the Lads were handed the perfect settler on 26 minutes as Hackett fired home Shields’ cross from the right. Shields did well to work a yard of space before arrowing in a low ball, Hackett timed his run to perfection and cushioned the ball past Daniel Gyollai from 18 yards.
Stoke responded well, asking a few questions of Johnstone but the Lads were disciplined and resolute with their efforts to go in at the break with their slender advantage intact.
The Potters flew out the traps at the restart, prompting Johnstone to show expert reactions as he tipped away a header off a floated ball in from the right.
Meanwhile Connelly, at the other end, continued to pose all kind of questions as he let fly with a rasping drive from distance which stung Gyollai’s palms.
But City set up a grandstand finish when Shenton headed them level on 73 minutes. The Potters’ No.10 capitalised on a defensive mix-up following Simranji Thandi’s cross from the right, Brandon Taylor didn’t deal with it and Shenton burst in to head past Johnstone.
And just eight minutes later Stoke won it when the Black Cats once again failed to clear their lines, the ball bounced kindly for Campbell and the bulldozing striker did the rest as he wrapped up the three points.
Sunderland U23: Johnstone, Hunter, James (Kokolo, 45), Bale, Taylor, Bainbridge, Connelly, Connolly, Shields, Hackett, Diamond (Storey, 83)
Subs: Young, Newman, Best
Stoke City U23: Gyollai, Thandi, Tymon, Sorensen, Wara, Collins, Verlinden (Waddington, 89), Dunwoody, Campbell, Shenton, Jarvis
Subs: Butler, Brrome, Pemerton, Kyeremateng