U23 report: Watmore plays 60 as Lads lose to Boro

Sunderland U23 1-3 Middlesbrough U23

Duncan Watmore completed 60 minutes as Middlesbrough came from behind to defeat Sunderland on their own turf this evening. 

Playing his first competitive minutes in over a year, Watmore had the chance to add some gloss to his display but failed to convert a penalty after trialist Sam Smart was hauled over. 

Jake Hackett, though, did give the Lads the advantage with a wonderfully struck free-kick before Boro fought back after the restart. 

Three goals in 10 minutes from Connor Malley, Daniel Ward and Stephen Walker turned the tide as Boro claimed all three Premier League 2 points.  

There was only one real talking point ahead of kick-off. Watmore’s return. Named in the starting XI, the 24-year-old clocked his first minutes in over a year as he stepped up his rehabilitation.

It had been a long time coming but the wait was finally over as the Black Cats made a cool start to proceedings at a fog-swept Eppleton CW.

But it could’ve been a whole lot better for the Roadrunner as he stepped up to take a penalty with 22 minutes played. Smart was knocked to the ground after cutting inside – offering Watmore the perfect opportunity to mark his return in style.

Unfortunately, though, it wasn’t to be and his sweetly struck penalty towards the ‘keepers left was kept out by Brad James who sprung to the side.

Middlesbrough fought back as Ben Liddle forced Max Johnstone to tip his effort from distance over before Johnstone was involved again moments later, gathering a corner from the right.

Watmore continued to be a shining light for the lads up top, making a jinxing run before the half was out as he weaved past Boro’s defence. It was a commanding run as he cut his way through the opposition before being clipped to the deck, with the referee awarding Sunderland the advantage. 

Hackett then whistled a strike from distance into James’ gloves at the start of the second 45 before Jordan Hunter conceded a penalty when he tripped Billal Brahimi.

Johnstone, though, wasn’t required as Liddle’s thunderous spot-kick rebounded off the post and away.

Elliott Dickman then rang the changes as Watmore and Smart were replaced by Andrew Nelson and Jack Diamond. A barnstorming run from Kimpioka, started by Nelson, almost paid off as the Swede surged past a host of defenders before feeding Bali Mumba, only for his effort to be denied by James.

But as the game wore on, Boro grew into it and a mad 10 minutes saw them turn the fixture on its head.

Malley’s header levelled the game 68 minutes before Ward stroked the ball into the corner six minutes later from the edge of the box. 

Walker then extended the visitors’ advantage further with another smart finish from the edge of the box to wrap up victory.

Sunderland U23s: Johnstone, Hunter, Young, Mumba, Taylor, Bainbridge, Smart (Diamond, 60), Hackett, Watmore (Nelson, 60), Neil, Kimpioka
Subs: Storey, Cameron, Connelly

Middlesbrough U23s: James, Spence, Robinson, Liddle, Stubbs, Wood-Gordon, Malley, Ward, McGill (Spence, 60), Walker, Brahimi
Subs: Hood, Balde, Hackney, Hemming

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