Sunderland 2nds fell to a heavy defeat to their York rivals in their first outing of the academic year on Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t, however, a game without positives for the home side.

Playing together for the first time, they produced a good number of composed passages of play in possession and maintained a solid work ethic both on and off the ball. York rarely allowed such signs of promise to translate into a tangible threat though.

The visitors were notably – yet understandably – more coherent in the vast majority of elements of the game. Stringing together neat combinations in the central and attacking thirds which regularly led to openings, and pressing intensely and collectively when they lost it, their victory was a well-earned one.

Having started quickly, they took an early lead when their centre-forward took down a flighted pass on the edge of the box before escaping his marker and volleying impressively into the bottom-right corner.

Sunderland did begin to gain a foothold within the game in the minutes that followed, but their opponents’ ruthlessness again came to the fore towards the middle of the half.

St. Johns’ doubled their lead when a devilish cross from the left was well kept-in at the far-post, allowing a late runner into the box to head home from eight-yards. And a third followed soon after as an incisive passing move ended with a low delivery across the six-yard box being volleyed home.

The fourth goal, for the increasingly confident visitors, came shortly before the break as they again worked their way into the box to create a point-blank shooting chance that was converted via an effort that whistled low through the unfortunate goalkeeper’s legs despite the best efforts of a covering defender.

Sunderland’s ‘keeper was, indeed, one of their key performers. Had it not been for his sharpness in reacting to several other York efforts and his proactivity in racing out to collect through-balls, the score-line could have made considerably tougher viewing.

Nonetheless, the visiting University could only be withheld to some extent, and they added two further goals in the second-half. They were, once more, the dominant side, though Sunderland were already displaying signs of progress. Having switched from their original 4-4-2 shape to a 3-5-1-1, they began to benefit from the extra bodies in the central areas of both midfield and defence.

Team Sunderland’s Lee Bratton said after the game: “It was a tough opposition and this was the first time that many of the players have played together, but we have a good base for improvement in the future.”

The result may have been a disappointing one for Sunderland, but the performance offered numerous plus-points, ones they will doubtless look to build on in the coming weeks and months as the season begins in earnest.