Promising forward Josh Maja played 60 minutes for Sunderland Under-23s on Sunday afternoon as Elliott Dickman’s side lost 2-0 to Swansea Under-23s at Eppleton CW.

The 18-year-old has missed over three months of football following a knee injury in pre-season, but is now being eased back to full fitness.

And, with games coming thick and fast over the Christmas period, Maja will hope to catch the eye of first-team manager Chris Coleman in the next few weeks.

Apart from Maja’s progress, there were few positives for the Black Cats who remain 11th in Premier League Two with just two wins from 11 games.

Oliver McBurnie scored twice for the visitors, the first of which came from the penalty spot, while Swansea were also reduced to ten men late on after Cian Harries was sent off for picking up two yellow cards in 45 seconds.

“We played some good stuff in the first-half after having to make a little adjustment to our shape,” said Dickman after the match.

“Our movement up top could’ve been better but it was all positive until we gave a penalty away right before half-time.

“Were they two goals better than us? In my opinion they weren’t but we have got to learn to manage the game a little bit better.”

Ethan Robson, Elliot Embleton and Tom Beadling all returned to the Sunderland side after being called up to the first-team squad for the trip to Aston Villa on Tuesday.

The hosts started strongly, as Andrew Nelson and Luke Molyneux both went close in the opening 20 minutes.

But as the half wore on, the visitors began to take control.

McBurnie, a Scotland Under-21 international,  was a threat throughout and almost broke the deadlock midway through the first half when he headed just wide.

Then, seconds before the interval, Sunderland defender Brandon Taylor brought down Kenji Gorre inside the area before McBurnie calmly converted from the penalty spot.

After the restart, Embleton’s free-kick was the closest Sunderland came to forcing an equaliser as the better chances fell to the visitors.

McBurnie almost added his second when he sent another header inches wide, while Jordan Garrick should have done better when he failed to hit the target from close range.

In the closing stages, Molyneux was forced off with an injury before Harris received his second booking and was dismissed for chopping down Nelson.

Yet, Sunderland were unable to take advantage and McBurnie sealed the win deep into stoppage time following a swift Swansea counter attack.

Sunderland: Stryjek, J Robson, Hume, Bale (Greenwood, 74), Taylor, Beadling, Molyneux, E Robson, Nelson, Maja (Diamond, 60), Embleton.

Subs: Storey, Talbot, Allan

Swansea City: Zabret, Reid, Lewis, Evans, Harries, Rodon, Garrick, King, McBurnie, Byers (Maric, 93), Gorre (Cooper, 86)
Subs: Cullen, Thomas, Blair