Hartlepool United 1-1 Sunderland
Benji Kimpioka’s eighth pre-season goal snatched a late draw against Hartlepool United on Saturday.
An under-hit back-pass gifted the home side an early lead, as Niko Muir pounced on Donald Love’s error before dispatching a cool finish into the net.
Callum McManaman provided the biggest threat in the final third, with the winger producing several decent crosses before taking matters into his own hands and curling an effort just wide.
Josh Maja and Chris Maguire also went close, but Kimpioka grabbed the headlines with a superb finish levelling the game in added time.
After missing the midweek trip to Darlington, Jon McLaughlin made his Sunderland debut as Ross made several changes.
Maja led the line as Dylan McGeouch, George Honeyman, Lynden Gooch and McManaman were also included in the starting XI, with Kimpioka’s seven-goal pre-season haul for the under-23s rewarded with a place on the bench.
Ahead of the game, both clubs came together to remember former Pools boss Neale Cooper, who sadly passed away in May, aged 54.
Tributes echoed around Victoria Park prior to kick-off, as did thunderous applause, as the Neale Cooper Stand was unveiled against a backdrop of red, white and blue.
The Lads made a bright start to the game and the 2,000-strong red and white army were roaring after three minutes, as McManaman flicked the ball past one defender and nutmegged a second to engineer the first attack.
Pools defended manfully, but Ross’ men controlled the ball and McManaman made the stage his own, with Gooch powering a header wide on 12 minutes following explosive build-up play from the winger.
Maja’s first sight at goal arrived moments later, but after taking the ball in his stride with an impressive first touch, the striker’s effort was blocked behind.
The home side were struggling to find a way out, but a routine clearance resulted in a goal on 19 minutes, as Love’s poor backpass opened the door for Muir and he clipped the ball over McLaughlin.
Ross’ side searched for a response before the break, but they left themselves open at the back as Liam Noble fired straight at McLaughlin before Kenton Richardson and Mark Kitching failed to convert.
Sunderland’s best chance of the opening period fell to Gooch, but for the second time in the game he was unable to head a McManaman cross on target.
The winger picked up where he left off following the restart, snapping at the heels of his marker and putting several dangerous crosses into the mix as the Lads stepped things up a notch.
With 50 minutes played, Maja twisted and turned before slamming a finish towards goal where Scott Loach made his first meaningful save of the game.
McManaman’s wicked effort was next to test the home side, but the winger’s rasping strike whistled inches wide as the Pools stopper scrambled across his line.
Max Stryjek, Ethan Robson and Chris Maguire were introduced with 25 minutes remaining, with the latter stinging Loach’s palms with a 20-yard free-kick.
A number of youngsters were also given a run out late on, with Brandon Taylor, Luke Molyneux, Andrew Nelson and Kimpioka following Bali Mumba into the fray.
And after bamboozling his marker seconds after coming on, there was more to come from the lively Kimpioka, as the young Swede curled a lovely finish into the corner in added time.
Attendance: 3,734 (2,233 away)
Hartlepool United: Loach (Catterick 61), Richardson (Munns 61), Kitching, Anderson (Woods 61), Davies (James 61), Magnay (Kioso 61), Donaldson (Hawkins 61), Newton (Featherstone 61), Muir (Miller 61), Noble (Gioukoudis 61), Hawkes (Laing 61).
Sunderland: McLaughlin (Stryjek 65), Matthews, Flanagan (Taylor 79), Hume, Love, Cattermole (Robson 65), Honeyman (Molyneux 79), McGeouch (Mumba 72), Gooch (Nelson 79), McManaman (Kimpioka 79), Maja (Maguire 65).