Match Report: South Shields 2-5 Sunderland Under-23s
South Shields were eliminated from the Durham Challenge Cup as Sunderland’s Under-23s recovered from two goals down with a clinical display at 1st Cloud Arena.
Sam Hodgson struck twice inside the first six minutes to hand Shields a perfect start, but the Black Cats fought back and were level at the break thanks to goals from Oliver Younger and Ellis Taylor.
Nicky Gyimah scored less than two minutes into the second half as Sunderland went ahead for the first time and when Nathan Lowe received a straight red card soon after, the Mariners’ task was made all the tougher.
Stephen Wearne added a fourth for the visitors and Taylor concluded the scoring with his second of the night as the Wearsiders booked their place in the first round.
Taylor was a bright spark throughout for Elliott Dickman’s side and he fired the first effort at goal by cutting inside from the right and curling a shot which Aaron Steavens did well to push away.
The resulting corner was cleared by Shields, who sprung into a counter-attack as Cedric Main raced away down the right before playing the ball inside to Hodgson, whose terrific drive from 25 yards kissed the underside of the crossbar before nestling in the goal.
One quickly became two for the hosts when Hodgson chased a seemingly lost cause, forced Cameron Jessup into a mistake, rounded goalkeeper Jack McIntyre and rolled home his second of the night.
It was a near-perfect start from the Mariners but Sunderland caught their breath and began to establish themselves in the game the longer the first half went on.
Tom Scott sent a shot wide from distance and Jack Bodenham made important blocks from Gyimah and Will Harris as Shields attempted to keep the away team at bay.
Their resistance was broken just before the half-hour mark, though, when Wearne’s floated corner from the left was powerfully headed past Steavens by Younger.
Main produced an eye-catching performance on his first start for Shields and he was presented with an opportunity for his maiden goal five minutes before half-time after being found by Callum Ross, but McIntyre parried his effort. The Mariners kept the ball alive and it eventually found its way to Blair Adams, who fired over from the left of the area.
It was a positive spell by Shields as half-time approached and Main drew another save from McIntrye with a low strike from just outside the box.
Their good work was undone just before the break, though, thanks to a piece of individual brilliance by Taylor as he unleashed a powerful left-footed drive from 25 yards which found the net via a glance of the crossbar.
The turnaround was completed less than two minutes into the second half with a deft finish by Gyimah, who pounced on a ball over the top and lifted it over Steavens before watching as it struck the inside of the post and went in.
There was an opportunity for a quickfire equaliser as Hodgson threatened a hat-trick, but his drive from just inside the area took a deflection and was tipped wide by McIntrye.
Within three minutes of that, Shields were reduced to 10 men when Lowe was controversially sent off for something he was adjudged to have said.
That made the Mariners’ task an uphill one against a technically gifted side which went on to create most of the remaining opportunities in the match.
Steavens saved well from Taylor after he evaded the defence and Younger headed narrowly wide just after the hour mark as Sunderland looked to kill the tie off.
A delicate effort from distance by Warne was pushed wide by Steavens but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do to keep Wearne off the scoresheet less than a minute later as his scorcher from the edge of the box rose into the top corner to double his side’s lead.
Steavens was being regularly called into action at this stage and he did well to kick away a fierce shot by Kenton Richardson before being beaten within seconds when Harris played in Taylor and he stroked in his second of the evening.
Shields’ best chance for a consolation was a header from Jack Bodenham which went wide from a Blair Rossiter corner, and at the other end there was a well-struck effort by Tyrese Dyce which cleared the crossbar.
Sunderland took their opportunities well to claim their place in the first round as the Mariners’ hopes of lifting the trophy for the first time since 2017 were dashed.
Graham Fenton’s side will aim to return to winning ways on Saturday when they travel to Marine in the Buildbase FA Trophy.
South Shields: Steavens, Neary (Martin 58), Adams (c), Ross (McGowan 78), Agnew, Bodenham, Rossiter, Briggs, Hodgson, Lowe, Main (Kempster 58). Subs not used: Morse, Massanka.
Goals: Hodgson (4, 6).
Red card: Lowe (51).
Image: Kev Wilson.