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Sunderland start pre-season with wins in North East double header

Tony Mowbray’s side began their preparations for the upcoming Championship season with two fixtures for fans to enjoy on Saturday afternoon.

First up was a trip to see an old friend at South Shields as former Black Cat Julio Arca took his place in the dugout for the first time following the departure of another Sunderland legend, Kevin Phillips.

The National League North newcomers led twice through a pair of Paul Blackett finishes either side of new summer signing Hemir’s headed equaliser in the second half.

Jack Clarke also bagged a brace to put Sunderland ahead for the first time in the afternoon as he first tapped in Lynden Gooch’s cross at the back post before slamming in his second with a first-time strike following some good work from Abdoullah Ba.

The hosts were not done yet and thought they had earned a draw when Dillon Morse stabbed in from close range with just 10 minutes left at the First Cloud Arena in frot of the record 4,000 crowd.

Sunderland would start the day with a win however as 16-year-old Chris Rigg celebrated signing his first professional contract by lashing in with his left foot on 89 minutes.

Sunderland AFC: Patterson (Richardson 74), Gooch (Kindon 74), Crompton (Lavery 60), O’Nien (Beattie 74), Taylor (Pye 60), Matete (Burke 74), Ekwah (Rigg 60), Lihadji (Ogunsuyi 60), Ba (Mitchell 74), Clarke (Tutierov 74), Hemir (Spellman 60).

Just couple of hours later and just a couple of miles down the road Sunderland were ready for their second game of the day at the Gateshead International Stadium to face Mike Williamson’s Gateshead.

It was clear early on that if Mowbray’s men wanted to maintain their 100% start to pre-season they would have to yet again come from behind as the Heed started with intent.

Connor Pani’s deflected effort beat Alex Bass in the visiting goal on 20 minutes to open the scoring and just three minutes later former Newcastle attacking midfielder Adam Campbell doubled the host’s advantage with an absolute stunner from 25 yards as he curled into the top corner.

The deficit was reduced before half time as a lovely move involving Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard resulted in the latter playing the ball across for Dan Neil to calmly pass the ball beyond Harrison Bond.

Neil almost had a second before the break but his looping effort fell just the wrong side of the far post.

Sunderland turned up the pressure in the second half with both Jewison Bennette and debutant Jobe Bellingham trying their luck.

Shortly after the hour mark the visitors found their leveller as youngster Callum Wilson slid the ball across the face of goal just moments after entering the pitch for Niall Huggins to turn home.

Both teams pushed for the winner in the latter stages and with nine minutes to go Sunderland would find it as Michael Spellman converted after Wilson’s initial effort was saved.

Sunderland AFC: Bass (Richardson 63), Hume (Fieldson 63), Johnson (Whittaker 78), Ballard (Wilson 63), Anderson (Spellman 73), Huggins (Bainbridge 73), Neil (Bell 78), Jobe (Chiabi 78), Roberts (Robertson 73), Pritchard (Tutierov 78), Bennette (Thompson 63).

Sunderland now travel to the United States for the next stage of their pre-season before returning for a home friendly against Spanish side Mallorca on July 29.