Sunderland under-23s secured their first Premier League Cup win of the season with a 2-1 victory over Exeter City under-23s at Eppleton CW.

Elliot Embleton’s first-half opener and Luke Molyneux’s second goal in three games put the hosts in front, before Liam McAlinden’s 85th minute strike made for a nervy finish.

The Black Cats held on to bounce back from their 5-0 defeat against Brighton in the opening game of the competition and move third in Group H.

Sunderland boss Elliott Dickman made three changes to the side that lost to Manchester United on Sunday with Jack Diamond, Alex Storey and trialist Harry Goode replacing Owen Gamble, Rees Greenwood and Brandon Taylor.

Molyneux started brightly and almost put the Black Cats in front with a cross after some quick footwork on the right-wing but his ball into the area just evaded Joel Asoro at the back post.

The Grecians got their first sight of goal 15 minutes in through striker Matt Jay’s close range flick but keeper Michael Woud was equal to it.

Embleton broke the deadlock eight minutes before the break via a stroke of good fortune, as his 25-yard strike took two deflections on its way past Exeter keeper James Hamon to put Sunderland ahead.

The hosts began to increase in confidence during the second-half and came close to doubling the lead when Asoro sped past Jordan Storey on the left-wing and forced Hamon into a reflex save at his near post.

Sunderland didn’t have to wait much longer for their second goal however, as Asoro’s lofted ball found Molyneux and the right-winger cut inside before blasting past Hamon and into the near post to put his side in control.

Exeter began to push forward with nothing to lose at 2-0 down, forcing Woud into making saves from Kyle Edwards’ 20-yard drive and Alex Hartridge’s attempt from a corner.

The Grecians pulled one back five minutes from time with a flowing move that began in midfield as Edwards sent Ben Seymour who crossed for McAlinden to smash in off the bar, setting up a tense finish.

City bombed forward in the closing stages in search of an equaliser and came close to finding one in injury time, as McAlinden saw his shot blocked a minute before Kyle Egan skimmed the bar, only for Sunderland to hold on for three points.

Sunderland U23s: Woud; Goode, Hume, Storey, Beadling; Bale (Gamble, 70), Diamond, Robson, Embleton, Molyneux; Asoro (Greenwood, 70).

Goals: Embleton (37′), Molyneux (58′)

Exeter City U23s: Hamon; Wilson, Hartridge, Down, Storey, Byrne (Egan, 73), Collins, Sparkes, Edwards, Jay, McAlinden.

Goals: McAlinden (85′)