University of Sunderland Men’s 4ths 0-6 Newcastle University Men’s 3rds
Wednesday 31st October 2018, 1pm GMT
Silksworth Sports Complex

A much-improved display by the home side on Wednesday afternoon may not have been reflected in the scoreline against an impressive Newcastle outfit, with a tough second-half offsetting an excellent first, but coaches Kris Teale and Jon Johnson were left with a much stronger foundation to work from than last week.

As they left Silksworth, Sunderland could count themselves as genuinely unlucky to have been beaten heavily for a second game running. This was a performance that positively contrasted the previous weeks in so many ways.

A well-fought first-half had seen the visitors go in 0-1 ahead thanks to a goal moments before the break and, although they had had the lion’s share of possession, Newcastle were being matched in virtually every other department.

Two early second-half goals changed the complexion of the game, however. The men from Tyneside turned the screw as the bodies and minds of their hosts tired, with the heightening pressure on the Sunderland backline bringing three more goals and two home dismissals.

“It was an outstanding first-half”, reflected Teale post-match. “We maintained the work-rate in the second but fatigue set-in.”

And those were thoughts echoed by Jameson: “The first half was brilliant. In the second, we lost our shape and composure.”

Indeed, the game began promisingly for the Wearsiders as they worked hard to ensure Newcastle had nowhere near the time on the ball enjoyed by Durham in the cup seven days earlier. They began to look increasingly dangerous in transition themselves, with Adam Gill’s intelligent movement and use of the ball down the Sunderland left proving particularly effective.

The visitors were creating more openings, with goalkeeper Nat Nixon – an outstanding performer throughout – needing to be on his toes on a number of occasions. The clearest chance of the opening forty minutes probably fell to the hosts, however.

A well-constructed passing move saw captain Liam Allison given space to run at the heart of the Newcastle defence from right-back and he drove through opponent after opponent to send himself clean-through. The visiting goalkeeper, though, advanced quickly and impressively blocked the shot that followed.

Then came the opener. A low-shot following a driving run into the box from the right was palmed away well by Nixon but it was a Newcastle man who responded quickest to the loose-ball to tuck the rebound home from point-blank range.

The timing, as much as the goal itself, was a kick in the teeth following such a promising first-half showing.

Sunderland continued in similarly impressive vein after the break but Newcastle, channeling the confidence gained from their opener, had extended their lead to three within five minutes of the restart thanks to two well-taken close-range finishes.

The efforts of the first-period now began to take effect, as the hosts’ ability to close-down their opponents began to wane. Now with extra time on the ball, the visitors’ quality now really began to show as they pressed home their advantage by shifting the ball – and their opponents – across, the full width and breadth of the pitch.

A fourth followed; a superb 25-yard effort that found the top-left corner via the post and the fingertips of the unfortunate Nixon.

And when the recurring Newcastle pressure forced two Sunderland sendings-off in quick succession, the hosts task became a notably steeper one.

The hosts refused to throw the towel in, though. Nixon made an excellent diving save from a 20-yard free-kick and despite the visitors extending their advantage to six in the closing stages – one goal coming via a clever through ball and tidy finish and the other after a cross from the left was flicked into the far-corner – the feeling post-match was one of encouragement.

There was justifiable frustration at the dip in performance in the second period, but more significant was the sense of – unlike last week – having something to build on in the coming weeks and months.