Stoke City U21 2-3 SAFC U21
Sunderland Under-21s returned to winning ways on Sunday afternoon, coming from behind to beat Stoke City at St. George’s Park.
Harry Gardiner’s double either side of half-time turned the game on its head after former Sunderland youngster Sonny Singh gave Stoke an early lead.
Edouard Michut added a third to give the Lads a healthy advantage, before Kahrel Reddin pulled one back for the hosts late on.
A mix of first-team and Academy players started the contest for Graeme Murty’s side, with Michut alongside Abdoullah Ba, Leon Dajaku and Jewison Bennette all involved.
Jay Matete captained the side, with Niall Huggins playing 67 minutes as he continues his return from a year-long injury absence.
Despite a promising start which saw Huggins and Dajaku both test Tommy Simkin in the Stoke goal, it was the home side who would take the lead, as the Lads’ ex-scholar midfielder Singh diverted Harry Souttar’s header over the line from close range.
But Sunderland levelled three minutes before half-time, as Gardiner was on hand to meet Nathan Newall’s threatening ball across the six-yard area.
After the break, the Lads continued to look dangerous going forward – as did Stoke – as Reddin struck the crossbar and D’Margio Wright-Phillips was denied by Adam Richardson, Dajaku firing wide after latching onto Ba’s pass.
And the third goal of the game would go the way of Murty’s side, and once again via the positioning of Gardiner, who provided another poacher’s finish in the six-yard box following excellent work down the left from Dajaku, culminating in an assist.
An entertaining and open spectacle carried on, Richardson pulling off a top reaction save with his legs to thwart Ben Kershaw, as Bennette volleyed Newall’s pinpoint deep cross off target.
But what would turn out to be the decisive goal came with 16 minutes to play, as Michut moved through the gears and raced through to make it 3-1, his shot creeping in under Simkin and just crossing the line.
Stoke were not to go down without a fight as Reddin made it into the box to fire into the far corner and pull one back, the clock ticking into minute 87.
It was however to be the Lads’ day, and a first win under Murty’s belt as we return to Wearside – about to begin preparation for next week’s Wear-Tyne Derby with Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.
SAFC U21: Richardson; Huggins (Kachosa 67’), Crompton (Jessup 75’), Johnson, Newall (Kelly 80’); Matete ©, Ba, Michut; Bennette, Dajaku, Gardiner (Spellman 75’).
Subs not used: Bond.