Derby County’s Under 18s were forced to settle for a point as Sunderland struck late on to secure a 1-1 draw at the Training Centre in partnership with the University of Derby.
A strong all-round performance from the young Rams and a well-worked second half goal from James Carvell looked to have sent Justin Walker’s side on the way to their first victory of 2016.
However, a late equaliser by Josh Ezenagh in the game’s dying stages saw Derby restricted to a share of the spoils as their wait for a win goes on.
On a freezing afternoon in Derbyshire, it was Walkers side who began brightly – pressing their visitors and pushing them onto the back foot.
Luke Thomas crafted the first opportunity of the game after the energetic wideman exploded down the wing and called the Sunderland ‘keeper Michael Would into action.
Emil Riis Jakobsen claimed the best opportunity of the first half with an audacious chip from outside the box which bounced off the post into Would’s grateful arms.
The second half continued in the same vein as Derby returned with the same attacking intent and once again created a number of opportunities in their quest to take the lead.
Sunderland, though, continued to utilise their dangerous, pace-fuelled counter attack, and in the 50th minute, would have prevailed had it not been for two inspired saves by Josh Barnes in quick succession.
Strong at the back and equally as effective in attack, Walker’s young Rams continued to constrict play to their opponent’s area with Thomas, Carvell and Babos all playing a key part in the chances created.
On 73 minutes, Derby’s efforts paid off after a well-placed cross from Jayden Bogle and a saved shot from Jordan Mills allowed Carvell to capitalise on the loose ball - putting his side deservedly ahead.
Just minutes later, Walker’s side notched a second after a technically perfect volley from Babos was sent inches wide of the top right corner.
With the young Rams looking to be on course to their first win of the year, misfortune struck when substitute, Ezenagh, made the most of a misjudged cross inside the area putting the Black Cats back on level terms.
Both teams pushed for a final goal and Sunderland came the closest on the stroke of full time through the Captain Daniel Pybus, however another spectacle of a save from Barnes saw that his side recorded a very hard fought point.
Elsewhere and also in competitive action against Sunderland, were Derby County’s Under 16s.
Danny Holmes’ side were subject to a 1-0 defeat this afternoon despite creating a number of opportunities throughout the match.
Derby County U18s: Barnes, Bogle, Macdonald, Bird (Thorne, 65), Stabana, Cover (C), Thomas, Mills, Jakobsen (Davie, 30), Babos, Carvell
Substitutes not used: Gordon, Yates, Goode
Sunderland U18s: Would, Taylor (Ezengah, 57), Hume, Gamble, Casey, Storey, Molyneux, Wright, Nelson, Pybus (C), Embleton
Substitutes not used: Allan, McCulloch, Yvis Poame, DiamondTweets by @ dcfcofficial