Sunderland Under-21s finished their PL2 campaign with a 2-1 defeat to West Bromwich Albion at Keys Park on Monday night
Owen Robinson pulled a goal back in the second half for the young Lads, as Baggies captain Jamie Andrews opened the scoring in the first half before Harry Whitwell’s early strike after the interval proved to be decisive.
In a nervy opening to the match, Sunderland forced experienced goalkeeper David Button into an early save. Robinson’s cross-field pass picked out an advancing Tom Scott down the left-hand side, but the goalkeeper was down quickly to keep the scores level.
The Black Cats continued to cause the hosts problems in the early exchanges. Robinson and Caden Kelly combined confidently down the right feeding debutant Timur Tutierov, whose effort was frantically scrambled away from the Baggies’ goal line.
West Brom created their first opportunity on 20 minutes when Rico Richards’ deflected shot bobbled on its way through to the goal, but Daniel Cameron was alert to pull off a smart stop with his leg keeping the sides level.
The Baggies started to rank up the pressure, Fenton Heard found unmarked at the back post but his close-range effort hit the crossbar before being cleared by Ben Crompton for a corner.
The hosts took the lead on 33 minutes from the resulting set-play, as firstly Cameron pulled off a brilliantly stop from six yards out, but the rebound was superbly executed into the corner by Andrews.
Tutierov came closest to equalising in the final five minutes of the first half when he pulled away from his man, but a last-ditch block forced a corner which was hoofed clear.
West Brom extended their lead on 50 minutes after dispossessing the visitors in their final third allowing Whitwell a simple tap-in from 12 yards.
Sunderland halved the hosts’ advantage on the hour mark, an unmarked Robinson drilling his shot into the roof of Button’s net from inside the Baggies box as Tutierov touched down Kelly’s square pass from the left.
Eseosa Sule was smartly played through on goal for the home team, but Cameron was well positioned again to deny the striker with his right foot.
The visitors continued to push forward inside the final 10 minutes and almost pulled level, but Tutierov’s attempt rolled inches wide of Button’s near post.
Graeme Murty’s side searched for a leveller deep into stoppage time, but the Baggies held firm to see out the match and claim all three points.
The Lads sit eighth in the PL2 Division 2 table having completed their league fixtures for 2022-23, but with sides around them still yet to finish their season, Newcastle United’s result against Derby County next Monday will determine either an eighth or ninth-place finish.
West Bromwich Albion U21: Button, Hall, Ingram, Bryan (Harper-Bailey 46’), Humphries, M.Richards, Andrews © (Sule 68’), Whitwell, R. Richards, Heard (Wangusi 68’), Love (Love 61’).
Subs not used: Nguepissi, Nelson.
Sunderland U21: Cameron, Johnson ©, Jessup, Crompton, Sohna (Jones 80’), Chiabi (Salkeld 76’), Burke (Mitchell 84’), Scott (Middlemas 76’), Robinson (Waters 76’), Kelly, Tutierov.