Sunderland U23s were knocked out of the Premier League Cup by Colchester United thanks to a ninth minute strike from Eoin McKeown on a wet evening at Eppleton CW.

Josh Maja’s penalty miss at the death followed by his equaliser being ruled out for offside capped off a miserable night for Elliott Dickman’s side.

Rees Greenwood made his return to the starting 11 on a night when Sunderland hoped their cup form would shine through rather than their poor league form that sees them winless in 2017 so far.

Colchester began on the front foot and almost got on the score-sheet early on when McKeown rounded the on-rushing goalkeeper James Talbot and tried to place the ball home, but Sam Brotherton’s interception ensured the scores stayed level.

The deadlock was broken just minutes later by McKeown and it was in part due to the hosts’ defensive frailties, as a corner into the area was wildly swiped at by Greenwood before confusion in the area resulted in McKeown pouncing to put the visitors in front.

Sunderland almost found themselves level via an unusual effort from Elliot Embleton, who would certainly have claimed it as intentional if his corner had dipped just under the bar rather than bounced clean off it.

The second period saw the hosts push forward in desperate search of an equaliser, as Colchester looked to protect their lead by defending in numbers – although McKeown always posed a threat on the counter.

Asoro came close as he headed a cross from the left-hand side just wide, before he then struck the post from close range after the ball rebounded to his feet inside the penalty area.

The Black Cats were handed a lifeline in injury-time when Maja was felled inside the area after holding off the challenge of multiple Colchester defenders, earning his side a penalty.

Unfortunately for the hosts however, Dean Brill got low down to his left hand side to keep his clean sheet and just minutes later Maja was denied once again, this time by the offside flag after his header had found the top corner.

The defeat now means that the Black Cats must turn their focus to the Premier League 2, as well as their Premier League International Cup semi-final tie against Norwich on March 31.