Final Score: Sunderland Under-21 2, Newcastle United Under-21 2
IT was a good night for the strikers with a point to prove at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland’s Under-21s struck late to prevent Newcastle United from leaving Wearside narrow winners.
First of all it took Nile Ranger, playing his first game on his return from injury since helping Sheffield Wednesday to promotion in May, just eight minutes to find the net in front of a 1,773 derby crowd.
The 21-year-old, who will leave the Magpies if a suitable offer comes in, soon found his feet in front of goal when he picked out goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s bottom left corner with a tidy finish.
That chance arrived courtesy of a lovely incisive pass from attacking midfielder Bradden Inman, who was also on the scoresheet once Sunderland had levelled.
Connor Wickham, who keeps banging them in at this level for both club and country, equalised. He was on hand to turn in a teasing centre from lively Black Cats winger Roarie Deacon 20 minutes in.
But nine minutes before half-time Willie Donachie’s Newcastle reclaimed the lead.
This time the Sunderland backline failed to deal with a dangerous ball in from JJ Hooper, who was allowed to play under the terms of his work experience agreement with Darlington.
After the restart Sunderland kept plugging away and should have levelled again when Hartlepool-born midfielder Adam Reed hit the foot of the post with a penalty when Wickham had been held by Conor Newton.
And as the half wore Sunderland’s £8.1m frontman had a couple more shots but failed to seriously test Newcastle goalkeeper Jak Alnwick before making way for promising teenager Mikael Mandron.
But just as it seemed Newcastle would finish winners, Sunderland’s Craig Lynch, who was on loan at Hartlepool earlier this season, stole the show by cutting inside and picking out the bottom left corner with a tidy left foot strike to earn a share of the spoils.
Lynch’s equaliser was a lovely little finish on a night when both Ranger and Wickham will have taken great satisfaction for different reasons from a fruitful night in front of goal.