Sunderland U23s managed to grab a late equaliser this evening against Hull City, with promising attacker Luke Molyneux netting on his return from a long injury layoff.
The Bishop-Auckland born forward helped to grab his side by the scruff of the neck when a goal down, and could well have got himself on the score-sheet again had his well-struck effort not been saved right at the end of the game.
From the off Sunderland were more aggressive in their approach than their visitors, who instead preferred to move the ball around patiently from the back - two completely different styles that made for an interesting start to the game.
The tie began in a lively fashion, but neither team were able to take an immediate impetus - though a half chance did fall to Josh Robson on eight minutes, but the right back was unable to get onto the end of a well-weighted cross.
The first shot of the game came not long after through Jake Hackett, whose long-range effort was spilled by the Hull ‘keeper, almost trickling over the line, but he recovered well and quickly got over his error.
The remainder of the half was fairly uneventful and neither side really gained a foothold in the game. Bar a couple of pot shots from Connor Shields and Elliot Embleton Sunderland were unable to harm their opponents though, in fairness, they were still the better of the two sides.
Half time and its #SAFC U23s 0-0 Hull.— Roker Report (@RokerReport) February 23, 2018
Pretty drab half in truth, started very lively but proceedings ecentually levelled out and neither side has really had a 'proper' chance.
There was one change at half time, with bustling centre forward Benji Kimpioka replacing new signing Connor Shields up front.
The second period started much like the first - both sides were full of energy, with neither able to get their foot on the ball properly in order to dictate proceedings.
But, then, disaster struck. After giving away a soft free-kick on the left, Sunderland failed to deal with the cross into the box and Keane Lewis-Potter was able to tap the ball home into an empty net to give the visitors an unlikely lead.
It was an uphill battle from that point for the young Mackems and despite trying their hardest to immediately get back into the game, they struggled, with Hull sitting tight in a bid to contain them.
With just over twenty minutes remaining, Elliott Dickman brought on the returning Luke Molyneux for his first appearance since November in order to try and offer Sunderland more of an attacking threat down the left wing.
Before succumbing to a knee injury - in November in our defeat to Swansea - Molyneux was easily the best performing player in the U23s and he’s been a huge miss in his absence.
And he marked his return with a goal in the 83 minute, smashing a low shot across the keeper into the bottom left-hand corner from inside the area to pull Sunderland level.
Sunderland kept pushing in search of a winner and it was Molyneux that was providing all of the creativity. Right at the death he combined well with Benji Kimpioka before getting a shot away which was well saved by the Hull goalkeeper.
Unfortunately though they weren’t able to get the clincher and the game ended 1-1, with neither side able to progress out of their Premier League Cup group.
Max Stryjek, 4/10: Was at fault for the Hull goal after misjudging the cross. Had little else to do really.
Josh Robson, 5/10: Gave away a few daft free kicks but worked his socks off down the right.
Alex Storey, 6/10: Pretty solid performance, if unspectacular.
Brendan Galloway, 6/10: Like Storey he didn’t have a great deal to do. Was very vocal though and tried to keep the team moving with his influence.
Denver Hume, 6/10: As always, he offered Sunderland an outlet down the left wing.
Owen Gamble, 5/10: Wasn’t really able to get his foot on the ball.
Jake Hackett, 6/10: Tried to influence proceedings in the attacking third but, until Molyneux came on, had no great outlet to hit.
Lee Connelly, 5/10: Didn’t have as much of an impact as he’d have liked.
Elliot Embleton, 6/10: Got all over the pitch. Very busy performance.
Jack Diamond, 5/10: Quiet, didn’t do a great deal.
Connor Shields, 5/10: Quiet, but only got 45 minutes before he was replaced at the break.
(SUB) Benji Kimpioka, 6/10: Strong and physical. Gave us a lot more than Shields did in the first half.
(SUB) Luke Molyneux, 7/10: Great to see him back and he took his goal well.
Man of the Match: Luke Molyneux.