The two teams lining up for the game | Picture Credit: Kieran Archer

Ryhope CW were defeated 3-1 by the Sunderland under 23 side, but they will be pleased with their performance against a side that featured young professionals.

Sunderland took the lead in the 28th minute through Jack Diamond, before Connelly added two more to give them a 3-0 half-time lead before Matty Weirs scored a consolation goal for Ryhope.

It was a big occasion for the Northern League side, with the friendly celebrating the club’s 125th anniversary, and the match didn’t fail to deliver, with the sides playing out an entertaining end-to-end game.

In many ways, the celebratory atmosphere seemed more important than the game itself, with Ryhope’s manager Gary Pearson saying: “It was a great occasion. I really enjoyed tonight,” adding that he “appreciated everyone who came down to support them on the night.”

Colliery Welfare had the better of the opening exchanges, the hosts having the first attempt in the 9th minute when Holme-Jackson had a sight of goal but wasn’t able to test Sunderland goalkeeper James Talbot.

James Ellis provided the first clear-cut chance of the game, making a great run into the box and smashing the ball towards goal, which forced a good save from Talbot, and Holme-Jackson inches away from being able to connect with the rebound.

First half action from the game | Picture Credit: Kieran Archer

Ellis had a lively start to the game and his shot from a narrow angle forced a corner in the 27th minute. The corner was cleared by Sunderland, who countered quickly and brought about their opening goal.

Diamond found space just outside the box and lashed the ball into the bottom right corner, taking advantage of a Ryhope defence struggling to get back in position following the counter-attack.

This turned the game in Sunderland’s favour and they had a strong end to the first-half, with Diamond spurning another chance.

Sunderland doubled their lead in the 35th minute when Lee Connelly found space inside the box and fired past Ball.

Colliery Welfare almost found a route back into the game in the 42nd minute when Riding won a header from a corner, but the effort was saved yet again by Talbot.

On the stroke of half-time Connelly bagged his brace and gave Ryhope little chance of mounting a comeback. A pull-back found the Black Cats’ attacker, who hit a shot high and central into the roof of the net.

Both teams made a lot of changes at half-time and it took a while for the second-half to really get going. Connelly had the first real chance of the half, but his 55th minute shot proved routine for Lowerson, who replaced Ball during the break.

Sunderland looked to continue the second-half as they finished the first, substitute Sonny Best making a dangerous run into the box, hitting the by-line but the ball was cleared.

Ryhope fought hard but lost the game | Picture Credit: Kieran Archer

The hosts managed to get themselves back into the game and pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute. Matty Weirs converted a cross from the left to give the home side some hope of getting back into the game.

However it wasn’t to be, as the two teams played out an even, end-to-end second-half, with Robbie Dunne’s 88th minute strike being the only real chance during the remainder of the game.

Despite the defeat, Ryhope were more than a match for the Sunderland youngsters, but the quality of the Sunderland side eventually shone through.

It was a great test for Ryhope and manager Gary Pearson was upbeat with how his players competed saying: “I thought we did start the game brightly, obviously Sunderland have got young fit lads who are very organised and Elliott Dickman has got them playing great football, but I thought we had a couple of chances [and] their first goal came when we were in their box from a corner.”

The gaffer was quick to dismiss the idea that playing a friendly during a busy Northern League season, which sees Colliery Welfare travel to Newton Aycliffe on Saturday, could have an impact on the players’ fitness for upcoming league games adding: “It beats training. It was a great workout, some of the lads needed some minutes and we got them on the pitch, Chris Wallace and James Ellis got 70 minutes in and it was a good test for them and a better workout than training.”

Welcoming a squad from a Championship club was a coup for Ryhope and they hope the game will attract some new supporters, Pearson saying: “A few people through the doors, I hope they liked what they saw and come and if we can keep hold of them and they come and watch us on Saturdays here they would be more than welcome.”

However, there was a sense that they did not quite get the attendance they had hoped for, which was alluded to by Pearson, who said: “To be honest with you I think the rain put quite a few people off, it was miserable early doors.”