By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe were handed a heavy defeat by a youthful Sunderland team, as the visitors produced a superb second half performance to record a 6-1 victory.
The competitive first-half, which ended level and with Aycliffe looking more than worthy opponents for the Black Cats, was overshadowed by three goals in four devastating minutes from the Premier League side.
A crowd of 575 descended on Moore Lane Park for the first-ever visit of one of the North-East ‘big three’, and they saw Aycliffe’s new signings Gavin Barton and Kris Hughes handed home debuts by Allan Oliver.
Hughes was involved early on as Aycliffe made the early running. The winger, signed from Jarrow Roofing, found Nathan Wilson in space, but the former Sunderland man’s effort was blocked before Hughes forced a smart stop from Joel Dixon from the rebound.
But it was Sunderland who took the lead in the 20th minute. Aycliffe skipper Sean Tarling was adjudged to have brought down George Honeyman in the penalty area, and Jordan Laidler made no mistake from the penalty spot, firing low to his left and Scott Pocklington’s right.
Aycliffe were not being outplayed, though, and fired back with chances of their own. The impressive Fred Woodhouse unsuccessfully tried his luck from 30 yards, before he linked brilliantly with Stephen Bogie, but saw his cross cut out just before Barton could pounce.
Next it was Wilson, who narrowly fired wide when found in space on the edge of the area by Hughes. Hughes then got the better of Noble again, but Knox couldn’t get on the end of his low cross.
Five minutes before the break, Hughes again found space on the left and sent in a dangerous cross that the Sunderland defence failed to deal with but Barton could only fire over from six yards out.
Aycliffe’s pressure finally paid off on the stroke of half-time, as Woodhouse equalised. Barton forced a corner, then headed the resulting set-piece back into the six-yard box towards Darren Craddock, whose flick-on was poked home by the former Stockton Town winger.
It was no less than Aycliffe deserved, but the second half was an entirely different story. The home side made six changes, handing home debuts to Tom Hinchley and Paul Robinson, while John Close, Paul Broom, Dan Robinson and Stuart Owen were all given valuable minutes.
Paul Robinson had a great chance to give Aycliffe the lead three minutes into his debut, but his dink over Dixon was well cleared by the scrambling Conner Oliver. It was to prove a costly miss as less than 30 seconds later Sunderland were ahead.
Kevin Ball’s side countered superbly down the Aycliffe right and the dangerous Kevin Mitchell released Laidler, who clinically fired past Pocklington.
Honeyman should have doubled the advantage four minutes later, but headed wide from close range after being found unmarked by Wade Joyce.
Five minutes later Sunderland did find the net again, with substitute Liam Agnew tapping home from six yards after being unselfishly found by Nathan Thomas.
The game lost its rhythm after that as both sides continued to make substitutions. And it was the visitors’ substitutes who caused the damage, as Sunderland blew Aycliffe away with three quick-fire goals.
In the 77th minute, Mikael Mandron crossed for Carl Lawson, who tucked his effort under Pocklington from six yards out.
Two minutes later it was Mandron’s turn to score, smartly taking Mitchell’s through ball in his stride before confidently finding Pocklington’s left-hand bottom corner.
A minute later and Aycliffe substitute Anthony Campbell inadvertently headed past his own goalkeeper for Sunderland’s sixth, as he tried to prevent Mandron adding another from Thomas’ dangerous centre.
It was a devastating four minutes from the talented youngsters in the Sunderland development squad, which took the gloss off what was a memorable occasion for Newton Aycliffe FC.
Team: Pocklington, Woodhouse, Oliver, Craddock, Peck, Hughes, Tarling, Knox, Wilson, Barton, Bogie. Subs used: D Robinson, P Robinson, Owen, Broom, Close, Campbell, Hinchley.