SAFC U21 1-4 Wolverhampton Wanderers U21
Sunderland Under-21s’ Premier League Cup group campaign came to an end on Thursday afternoon, as the young Lads were beaten 4-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Wolves raced into a four-goal half-time lead at Eppleton, Owen Hesketh with a hat-trick, supplemented by Harvey Griffiths’ early opener.
Michael Spellman reduced the arrears in the second half, before Ethan Kachosa was sent off late on following a second bookable offence.
With qualification into the knockout stages from Group H mathematically out of reach, the opening game of 2023 for our U21s enabled players to reclaim sharpness after the festive break and over a fortnight without football.
The match itself – rearranged from late November as heavy fog abandoned the original group fixture between the sides – started with a physically dominant Wolves side flying from the traps, opening the scoring inside eight minutes as Griffiths marauded forward from midfield and found the bottom corner with a low shot.
Hesketh then met a pull-back from the byline to double the lead from eight yards, before adding his second and Wolves’ third on 27 minutes with a tap-in from closer range.
The closest the Lads came in the first half was via captain Ellis Taylor’s whipped free-kick from 25 yards, the left-footed strike dipping a fraction too late.
Nathan Fraser struck the crossbar at the other end as the visitors hunted a fourth, which came when Owen Farmer was fouled by Cameron Jessup inside the area – Hesketh slotting in the penalty for his hat-trick.
After the break, Sunderland enjoyed a marked improvement and forced efforts towards goal through Ben Middlemas and substitute Connor Pye, Adam Richardson making an astute save at the other end to stop a fifth from Tyler Roberts.
The consolation goal arrived midway through the second half, as Spellman found space on the left-hand side of the area and tucked away a smart finish, delivering minor reward for the Lads’ efforts in the second 45.
As the game ebbed to an end, Kachosa was shown a second yellow with two minutes to play, the bookings issued for a shirt-pull and a cynical foul respectively. The full-back will now miss Monday’s hosting of Middlesbrough.
With just four days to prepare to take on the Teessiders at Eppleton in the return of Premier League 2 action for the first time since before the World Cup, Graeme Murty and John Hewitson’s young charges have a quick opportunity to respond.
SAFC U21: Richardson; Kachosa, Jessup (Pye 55’), Wilson, Bainbridge; Burke (Chiabi 66’), Scott (Moore 73’); Taylor ©, Middlemas (Robinson 66’), Spellman; Gardiner.
Subs not used: Cameron.