Sunderland 0 Wolves 1 (Mabete 35)
Wolves under-18s made a positive start to their 2021/22 U18 Premier League North campaign, with a narrow victory over Sunderland on the road.
Filozofe Mabete’s header ten minutes before the half-time break proved to be the difference in a game where Steve Davis’ side had plenty of chances but lacked the cutting edge when in the final third.
Wolves started the brighter of the two sides at the Academy of Light, coming out all guns blazing in their opening match of the season, and put the Sunderland defence and their goalkeeper Harrison Bond under plenty of pressure.
Davis’ young side were looking positive in attack and put together several well-worked plays but were struggling to break down a suborn Sunderland defence.
However, their pressure finally told just before half-time, when a corner from Aaron Keto-Diyawa found the head of Mabete who turned the ball past Bond and into the back of the net.
The second-half was a bit more of a struggle for Wolves, who tired quickly following the break, as their lack of 90 minute matches in pre-season was beginning to catch up on them.
With chances at a premium for the visitors, Sunderland grew into the game, and had opportunities of their own to get back on level terms, but fortunately for the old gold, the defence were able to keep the Black Cats at arm’s length and secure the three points to open the season.
Steve Davis was happy with the way his team came out in the opening stages of the game, but understands it’s going to take time to get match fitness back into the legs of his players, who tired after the break.
He said: “I felt we were really good first-half. We had a lot of energy, played with a lot of intensity, and controlled the first-half, but we just didn’t take the chances that presented themselves to us.
“From the amount of pressure we were putting them under, we managed to get something from a set-piece which is really encouraging and it was a really good header from Fil.
“In the second-half we tired quite quickly because we’d used so much energy in the first-half, and didn’t balance it off very well. We didn’t really push on and didn’t have the energy to push on and get more, and they had a few chances, to be fair to them. But it was just a case of managing the game and seeing it out.
“Overall, I was pleased with some aspects of the play, but I didn’t see enough of it really and maybe the lack of game time in pre-season was a factor in that.”
On getting a 90-minute performance
“We’re always striving for a complete 90 minutes, but it’s very rare that you get a whole 90 minutes of solid performance. There are always spells where the opposition will have spells in the game, so we’ve got to be prepared for that.
“Ideally, we would’ve had three or four 90-minute games in pre-season, but we haven’t had the luxury of that, so the lads are just going to have to get the 90 minutes into the legs in the competitive games.
“That’s a lot harder because the other teams might be slightly further ahead in the amount of games they’ve had, but it is what it is.
“We’re just looking forward to another competitive game and another 90 minutes to build their match fitness up, because that it the aspect their lacking at the moment, but that will only come with playing, so hopefully we’ll be better for Newcastle on Saturday.”
On keeping a clean sheet
“It’s always important to have that solid structure behind the attacks, and if we can be well organised when we are attacking and defend the goal, when we’re under pressure, in an organised manner, then that’s what we’re after.
“We had a lot of clean sheets in the Man United tournament, apart from the final, and we managed another clean sheet on Saturday, so I’m really pleased with that, especially as we’ve switched to a back four, as it always takes time to adapt to new systems.
“But we always say that you have a great chance of winning a football match if you can defend well as a team and not concede, and we’re doing that at the moment.”
Davis’ side return to Compton Park this weekend as they face a Newcastle United side which fell to a heavy defeat at the hands of Burnley in their opening game.
“I’ve not seen any of Newcastle this year, but they had a bit of a crazy result which we will analyse this week.
“There are always those kind of crazy results in this league, not just on the first day, but I don’t know what happened for the game to finish 8-3, as that’s very bizarre.
“It will be interesting to see how that game panned out, how the game was and why the goals occurred, so we need to analyse that and see if we can exploit their weaknesses and win the game ourselves.”
21/08 Newcastle United (H)
28/08 Blackburn Rovers (A)
11/09 Manchester City (H)
25/09 Everton (A)
02/10 Leeds United (H)
Sunderland: Bond, Johnson, Williams, Fieldson, Bainbridge, Wright (Middlemas 67) (Dowling 90), Burke, Singh, Ryder, Kelly, Gardiner.
Unused subs: Richardson, Cain, Bell.
Wolves: Storer, Lembikisa, Kaleta, Mabete, Keto-Diyawa, Rees, Francis-Burrell (McLeod 46), Barnett (Ashworth 72), Roberts, Farmer, Fraser (Hayden 79).
Unused subs: Amos, Diomande.