Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-3 Sunderland AFC U23
Will Harris’ hat-trick at Aggborough ensured a determined Sunderland Under-23 side returned to winning ways against Wolves.
The striker fired home a powerful strike 12 minutes in, which forced a dangerous Wolves side to look forward and create chances – eventually taking one through Fabio Silva just before half-time.
Just over a minute after the restart, Harris finished a returning Denver Hume’s delivery to regain the Lads the lead, before sending a 40-yard hit sailing into the net in the dying seconds to seal the win after goalkeeper Louie Moulden was caught upfield.
The result ensures a welcome winning return for Elliott Dickman’s side as they look to move further up the Premier League 2 Division 2 table.
Hume was named in the line-up at left-back after four months out through a hamstring injury and played an encouraging hour in the West Midlands, with Wolves knocking on the door with numerous first-half chances – Silva being thwarted by Jacob Carney and Kenton Richardson denying Harry Birtwistle with a vital headed goal-line block.
The home side were forced to push further following the opener from Harris, who took a touch onto his right foot and fired a sweet hit rising into the top corner.
After a half of dogged defending from the Black Cats, Silva finally found a way through as he steered a close-range finish into the bottom-left corner.
But immediately after the break, Sunderland regained the lead – the number nine getting his second as he hit a neat finish on the turn eight yards from goal after receiving the ball from Hume.
The goal advantage certainly did not see the Lads shy from breaking forward – in fact much the opposite until the latter stages, with Ollie Younger twice going close with headers – Stephen Wearne and substitute Ethan Kachosa also seeing efforts kept at bay.
Wolves were forced to risk it all in the latter stages and created opportunities, Richardson making a brave block from Owen Hesketh – who then saw a dipping long-range strike tipped over wonderfully by Carney.
In the dying embers, Moulden became the 11th man forward as the hosts desperately sought an equaliser – but it only served to seal the Sunderland win, Harris darting forward, taking his time and launching a left-footed shot which dipped into the net for the three goals and three points.
Following the victory, Under-23 boss Dickman said: “That’s much more like what we’re about. Just like at Burnley away, we performed to the levels we expect and for me, that was the best performance of the season so far.
“We were dogged and determined when we had to be, we looked stronger from set-pieces after an honest and productive conversation and training on them, and I’m delighted for Will. He’s absolutely taken off since he scored twice at Crystal Palace last season, and he’s a real nuisance to play against.
“It was great for Denver to get 60 minutes tonight too, and he was terrific. Not just on the pitch, but how he’s been with us in training and in the dressing room with the lads. The whole team were brilliant tonight.”
SUNDERLAND AFC: Carney; Richardson, Younger, Almond, Hume (Kachosa 60’); Sohna, Scott; Taylor (Kelly 78’), Wearne ©, Dyce; Harris.
Subs not used: McIntyre, Newall, Jessup.