U23 report: Diamond strike secures win on Wearside

Sunderland U23 1-0 Reading U23

Sunderland under-23s dented Reading’s Premier League 2 title credentials this afternoon at the Stadium of Light as Jack Diamond’s strike handed them three points.

Following a goalless opening 45, Diamond’s strike from distance found a way past Liam Driscoll who was left with his head in his hands.

The Royals did rattle the frame of the goal twice but the Black Cats could’ve so easily had doubled their advantage had Denver Hume’s rasping drive been an inch further away from the Reading stopper.

It was to be Sunderland’s day, though. Max Stryjek made a number of vital stops late on in a game that was a tale of two keepers.

Hume made his long-awaited return from injury as he clocked his first set of minutes since September. The full-back was forced off in the lads’ Sky Bet League One fixture at Coventry City at the end of September and has since endured an extended lay-off following a set-back. Stryjek also featured alongside first-team fringe players Bali Mumba and Benji Kimpioka.

On an ice-cold day at the Stadium of Light, something was needed to warm-up the 200 odd fans who turned out to support Sunderland’s second string.

However, the first 45 offered little in the way of chances as Polish stopper Stryjek made just one stop as he turned away a thumping cross from the left. 

Mumba looked composed and collect and in passion, linking up well with Swedish youth international Kimpioka on occasions, but to little avail in the opening 45.

Sunderland’s best spell came in the final four minutes of the first-half – a visionary switch of play from Dan Neil saw him pick out Diamond on the right flank. 

His first touch immediately had the Reading full-back backpedalling, an unselfish touch inside then allowed Mumba to strike at goal, however, his effort deflected behind for a corner. 

Lee Connelly then had appeals for a penalty dismissed after being bundled to the floor before Diamond dragged his left-footed effort just wide in stoppage time. 

Reading responded in the second 45, starting as they did in the first, seeing the majority of the ball. Stryjek made a number of comfortable stops between the sticks after the Royals struck the base of the post, but the game swung in Sunderland’s favour just after the hour mark.

There was a slice of fortune with the goal too. Kimpioka drove through the lines, fed Diamond who carved out a strike from 20 yards. His low effort fizzed straight at the Reading stopper but somehow squirmed through his legs and into the back of the net.

Reading responded by striking the post once more following a goal-mouth scramble before Connelly picked out Hume who flew down the left in support. 

The Scot rolled a perfectly-weighted ball into his path and he connected sweetly only to be denied by a fine stop from the Reading stopper. 

It was to be Sunderland’s day, though. Stryjek made a number of vital stops late on. A tale of two keepers.

Sunderland U23: Stryjek, Hume, Young, Taylor, Hunter, Connolly (Evans, 90), Mumba, Neil, Diamond, Connelly, Kimpioka
Subs not used: Storey, Johnstone, Bale, Leonard 

Reading U23: Driscoll, Green, Holmes (Burley, 71), Odimayo, Howe, Barrett, Pendlebury (Nolan 71), East, Rollinson, Liddle, Lawless (Olise, 64)
Subs not used: Andersson, Balogun

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