Match report: U23s brush aside experienced Rams

Sunderland U23s 2-1 Derby County U23s

Sunderland under-23s brushed aside an experienced Derby County side at Eppleton CW on Sunday afternoon.

The Black Cats’ ranks were depleted due to first-team involvement and loans, but they showed no signs of discomfort as Dan Wright struck in each half to claim an impressive win.

Luke Thomas pulled one back late on but there was no way back for the visitors.

Recap all the action below.


Sunderland were without several under-23 regular’s due to their inclusion at the Riverside Stadium, but there was no such dilemma for Derby County as the Rams named a powerful side at Eppleton CW. Jason Shackell, Ikechi Anya and former Black Cat Darren Bent were all included in the starting XI, as Elliot Embleton, who played against Middlesbrough less than 24 hours earlier, also started. Owen Gamble and Tom Beadling – both unused substitutes on Teesside – were also selected by Elliot Dickman, with under-18 striker Connor Slack on the bench.


There was little to note during the opening 20 minutes as both sides saw time on the ball ultimately wasted. Derby edged the possession stats but Sunderland were happy to soak up any pressure mounted by the visitors and they were comfortable for much of the opening period. With Jack Diamond, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and Andy Nelson unavailable, Embleton and Rees Greenwood were the Black Cats’ most-advanced players, but they didn’t see enough of the ball in the final third to threaten Jonathan Mitchell’s goal during the opening exchanges.


Play continued in a similar fashion with Derby unable to breach the Black Cats’ resistance, while the Lads failed to ask any serious questions of the visitors. But that all changed on 34 minutes. Under pressure from Wright, Rams stopper Mitchell scuffed his clearance straight to the midfielder who gleefully gobbled up the chance and tapped the ball into the empty net. As a result, confidence flooded through the young Black Cats and they dominated the game from then on, as Mitchell atoned for his earlier error with a sublime save to turn Storey’s header to safety.


Derby made a change at the interval as Offrande Zanzala replaced Lewis Walker and the visitors crafted the first opening of the second period, as Thomas weaved his way through the final third before seeing his effort deflect wide. The danger wasn’t over there, though, as the resulting corner whistled across the six-yard box where a crowd of bodies were unable to connect. Just two minutes later, they were made to pay as Wright once again pounced on a defensive error, with another simple finish nestling into the net after a Derby defender appeared to kick the ball out of Mitchell’s grasp.


Despite facing a strong Derby side containing Premier League and international experience, Sunderland were desperately unlucky not to extend their lead as they piled on the pressure. Embleton came closest as his stunning 25-yard effort cannoned off the crossbar with Mitchell rooted to the spot, but Greenwood continued to toil and was unlucky not to win a penalty after tumbling in the box seconds later. Derby pulled one back late on as they mounted a late surge against the Black Cats' tiring backline, but Dickman's side rode out the storm to claim a hard-fought victory.

Sunderland: Woud, Gamble, J Robson, Beadling, Taylor, Storey, Wright, Embleton, Greenwood, Allan, Brotherton.
Substitutes: Edmundsson, Talbot, Poame, Slack.

Derby County: Mitchell, Bogle, Karic (Jakobsen 78), Shackell, Wassall, Stabana, Anya, Babos, Bent, Thomas, Walker (Zanzala 46).
Substitutes: Cover, Barnes, Taylor.

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