Sunderland AFC U23 2-1 Birmingham City U23
Sunderland Under-23s made a long-awaited return to winning ways on Monday night, defeating Birmingham City 2-1 in the final Premier League 2 game at Eppleton this season.
Ellis Taylor struck both goals in the first half for the young Lads, with first a penalty and then a terrific strike which proved decisive, before Birmingham pulled one back after the break through Josh Williams.
The Lads produced great determination and graft throughout the second half to preserve the lead, and now head into the final game of the league season at Southampton on Sunday on a winning note.
A notable inclusion in the matchday squad was that of Lee Burge, who made an eagerly anticipated return following his recovery from heart complications after a bout of Covid-19 in January.
Three trialists also took to the pitch and impressed, with Taylor leading the line with the captain’s armband.
Chances were at a premium during the first quarter of the game, with Vinnie Steels having to be replaced by Nicky Gyimah early on due to a hamstring issue.
Jobe Bellingham had the first of Birmingham’s efforts to force Burge into action, as he then did well to tip over Williams’ chance later in the half.
The opening goal went Sunderland’s way via the penalty spot after a well-worked attack, masterminded by a pinpoint long ball forward by Harrison Sohna, finding Gyimah who drew the foul in the box from Blues ‘keeper Alfie Brooks.
Taylor stepped up, and duly drilled the penalty low into the bottom-left corner.
And four minutes later, the skipper for the night wasted no time in doubling the lead, hitting a left-footed screamer from 25 yards which sailed over Brooks’ head and into the top corner of the net.
Two crucial blocks in quick succession from Ethan Kachosa and Cameron Jessup then denied Birmingham an instant response, as the sides went in at the interval at a 2-0 scoreline.
The second half saw chances once again dry up, but a gritty defensive display helped see out the win – especially needed after Williams halved the deficit with a neat side-footed finish past Burge after finding space in the area.
A chance each then went amiss as Caden Kelly curled a shot wide from 20 yards, before Kieron Wakefield put a shot wide after getting in behind.
The young Lads did however secure the three points, a win which was in the making.
SUNDERLAND AFC U23: Burge; Trialist A (Bainbridge 55’), Trialist B, Jessup, Kachosa; Sohna, Scott; Trialist C, Kelly, Steels (Gyimah 16’); Taylor ©.
Subs not used: Carney, Jones, Fieldson.