Sunderland under-18s were held to a 1-1 draw by Wolverhampton Wanderers in their first home game of 2019 at a blustery Academy of Light.
The Black Cats made the most of their limited first-half chances as Tom Scothern finished off a free-flowing move to hand his side the lead midway through the first half.
Kevin Berkoe’s close-range lob hauled Wolves level 10 minutes after the restart and proved enough to earn his side a point despite second-half chances.
The hosts started off on the back foot as Wolves enjoyed the majority of the possession early on, although only half chances would come through it.
Berkoe was the architect of two early opportunities for the visitors, firstly setting up for Zhenyu He to fire a deflected shot wide before Aaron Crabtree side-footed Berkoe’s free-kick over the crossbar at the back post.
Sunderland were not without threat on the counter however, and showed why Wolves needed to remain wary as Sonny Best and Connor Slack linked up 20 yards out before the latter curled just over.
The visitors were then left helpless as Scothern put the hosts ahead on 28 minutes, side-footing Ryan Leonard’s cross home from 15 yards to round off a fine team move which involved the majority of the Black Cats’ outfield players.
Sunderland remained firm at the back to deny Wolves any clear opportunities heading into the break, with He’s wayward header from inside the penalty area the only half chance following the opener.
Ten minutes into the first half however, their lead was undone as Berkoe beat two defenders to an overhead ball before lofting over the on-rushing Adam Cameron to bring the Lads back to square one.
Wolves gained the upper hand after drawing level and looked to apply the pressure to Sunderland’s backline, almost taking the lead twice on 68 minutes as substitute Taylor Townsend struck the crossbar from 20 yards, moments before rolling off the far post.
The Black Cats were keen to hit their opponents out wide on the counter-attack, much like the opening 45, but found chances difficult to come by with Leonard’s wayward 30-yard effort one of few sights of goal in the second half.
Leonard found himself inside the area after stealing the ball a few minutes later, only to see his narrow-angled effort float across the goal-line and away with no team-mate able to connect at the far-post.
Sunderland had Patrick Almond to thank for keeping the score level late on as he put his body on the line to clear Townsend’s goal-bound shot from point-blank range, ensuring both sides settled for a point.
Sunderland U18s: Cameron; Armstrong, Pye, Allen, Almond, Ord, Gooch (Lilley, 75’), Scothern, Slack, Best (Foster, 84’), Leonard.
Subs: Newman, Jones, Krakue.