How it Went Down
Sunderland were quick out of the blocks and were all over their opponents from the off.
It took just five minutes for the first goal of the game, when a deep cross by the ever-influencial George Honeyman found the head of Frenchman Mikael Mandron, and his well-weighted header went back across Joe Fryer and into the net.
The next fifteen minutes or so were all Sunderland, with Honeyman seeing a number of his efforts on goal saved and deflected wide. Throughout the game he was a constant thorn in the side of Middlesbrough, and in particular Australian international midfielder Rhys Williams, who struggled to track Honeyman as he found pockets of space all around the Middlesbrough box.
In the twenty-ninth minute Liam Agnew's curling effort was well saved by Fryer, and it perhaps should have been 2-0 to the hosts.
Sunderland squandered a number of missed opportunities and set pieces throughout the opening half and the initial worry was that they might regret not taking them, with Boro starting the second period much more lively than the first.
It was around the hour mark that Sunderland extended their lead. Carl Lawson received the ball to feet near the penalty spot and he finished well past Fryer to make it 2-0. Middlesbrough barely mustered a fight up until that point and it was the kick that they needed to bring the game to Sunderland.
Not long after scoring the second the hosts took their foot off the gas and a lapse in concentration from Tom Beadling allowed Arnel Jakupovic to comfortably finish past Max Stryjek in the Sunderland goal.
With a timely reminder that the game was not yet won delivered, Sunderland switched back on and looked for a third. Ethan Robson was brought on for goalscorer Carl Lawson in order to beef up the Sunderland midfield and was almost 3-1 soon after, when a delightful through ball to the feet of Mikael Mandron was steered wide of the post.
With ten minutes left to play, Mandron got his second of the match. Receiving the ball with his back to goal, the giant centre forward turned his man quickly and found the space to notch Sunderland's third. It was another good finish from a player who was up against an experienced forward in Alex Baptiste for most of the game.
The game wasn't over there though, as Boro made in 3-2 with a well-taken penalty given after a Tom Beadling foul in the box on Jakupovic, who converted to notch his second and give his side a chance at getting back in the game with only minutes to spare.
Despite a late push from Middlesbrough it was Sunderland that held firm and won the match. In truth, it wasn't as good a match as the scoreline perhaps reflected but it was a decent run out for our youngsters, especially considering some of the experience in the Middlesbrough side, with the likes of Alex Baptiste and Australian international Rhys Williams playing without causing any real issues.
M Stryjek - 5, T Robson - 7, G Brady - 7, T Beadling - 5, J Robson - 6, L Agnew - 6, M Smith - 7, C Lawson - 7, R Greenwood - 7, G Honeyman - 8, M Mandron - 8.
Subs: E Robson - 6, D McAvoy - 5.
Man Of The Match
Mikael Mandron took both of his goals well and it was a great test for him having to go up against an experienced defender in Alex Baptiste. For that, I gave him man of the match. He was ran close by George Honeyman, who looked a class above every other player on the pitch, and for the most part ran the game.
There were plenty of scouts from football league clubs in attendance last night and hopefully, with the loan window now open, many of our more 'experienced' youngsters will earn loan moves to football league clubs that can further their development.
It's a big year for Mikael Mandron, and he really needs to have a successful loan away from the club if he's to ever make it here. In his brief spells at Fleetwood Town and Hartlepool he failed to impress and the question now is whether or not he has what it takes to make it at professional level. He's proven over the last few years that he's more the capable of scoring goals for the youths but there has to come a point when he needs to go out and show he can do it against more experienced players.
The same can be said of George Honeyman, who I've thought highly of for a long time now. In my eyes he's a better footballer than Duncan Watmore is but for some reason has been unlucky not to get his break with the first team, and the best way of proving that he's good enough is to go and play on loan at a decent level and succeed, much like Lynden Gooch has with Doncaster Rovers recently.
Liam Agnew is another that is thought highly of that would benefit from a loan away, and hopefully he's allowed to go out and show his worth sooner rather than later.