A patched-up Sunderland U23s side comfortably beat Derby County this afternoon at the Eppleton CW ground, running out 2-1 winners thanks to a Dan Wright double.
With a combination of first-team injuries and the U18s taking on Watford in the Youth Cup this afternoon meaning the pool of players to pick from was slim, Elliott Dickman named a Sunderland starting eleven that had many players playing out of position, but it didn’t deter them as they managed to pick up all three points against what was, on paper, a tough side.
The opening stages of the game were mostly dominated by the experienced Rams, with Sunderland opting to sit on the back foot in order to soak up the pressure and eventually look to hurt Derby on the counter attack.
Fortunately for the Black Cats, however, Darren Bent and Ikechi Anya were unable to really force their way into the game, meaning Sunderland were able to grow in confidence and attack their opposition.
After a period of sustained pressure Derby eventually succumbed.
With the ball at his feet, former Newcastle United goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell fumbled and conceded possession to Daniel Wright, who gladly tapped the ball into the gaping net from six yards out to put the home side ahead.
Sunderland looked to add a second, but a couple of chances went begging and Elliott Dickman’s side weren’t able to double their lead, instead going into half-time 1-0 up and firmly in the driving seat.
Half time. Sunderland U23s leading 1-0 through a rather fortunate Dan Wright goal. Have certainly been the better of the two teams and could maybe have had more.— Roker Report (@RokerReport) January 7, 2018
The second half began much like the first ended, and Sunderland were allowed to take advantage of another Derby mistake at the back in order to score their second goal of the game.
Unable to deal with a cross into the area from the right, a mix-up between Derby ‘keeper Mitchell and Ethan Wassall led to the ball again falling to Daniel Wright, who tapped in under rather fortunate circumstances once more to double his tally for the day on his return to the team.
Sunderland then began to turn the screw, and were denied a third by the crossbar after Elliot Embleton cut in from the right-hand side and struck one from 25-yards which, luckily for Derby, bounced away from goal and out of danger.
The away team then went on the front foot in a bid to get back in the game, but much like in the opening 45 minutes Sunderland defended resolutely and restricted their opponents to half-chances and shots from range.
The pressure eventually paid off though, and with seven minutes of normal time remaining it was forward Luke Thomas who got one back, finishing well to give his side hope of getting something as time ticked away.
Despite their goal, Derby weren’t able to make more of their momentum and Sunderland comfortably saw out the game, running out eventual - and deserved winners.
Michael Woud, 6/10: Had very little to do in all honesty but what he did do was sound enough - couldn’t have done much about the goal, in truth. Comfortable bringing out the ball from the back, which helped Sunderland in the system that they deployed on the afternoon.
Josh Robson, 6/10: Did well playing out of position at left wing back.
Owen Gamble, 7/10: Dealt comfortably with Scotland international winger Ikechi Anya. Was a great test for him and he came out of it the better of the two.
Alex Storey, 6/10: Strong in the air.
Tom Beadling, 7/10: Didn’t really give Darren Bent a sniff.
Brandon Taylor, 6/10: As with the other two central defenders, he played admirably.
Chris Allan, 6/10: Alongside Brotherton, he shielded the defence well.
Sam Brotherton, 6/10: Out of position but did a job.
Elliot Embleton, 8/10: He was a constant threat all afternoon. Was unlucky not to score after his long range effort rattled the bar in the second half.
Dan Wright, 8/10: Two chances presented to him on a plate but he still had to tuck them both away. Nice to see him get some game time after a long spell away from the team.
Rees Greenwood, 7/10: Fairly threatening, operated well in that front three with Embleton and Wright. Worked hard off the ball.