Gambles’ Rambles: pleasing developments at Harrogate Town

Salut! Sunderland had two contributors at Harrogate Town last evening, where the Development Squad defeated the home side by two goals to one. Ken Gambles’ account follows

When you’ve finished that, if you haven’t done so already, you can read Pete Sixsmith’s take on the game here.

 Ken Gambles in a slightly larger arena than wetherby Road
Ken Gambles in a slightly larger arena than Wetherby Road

In a most competitive, enjoyable contest Sunderland U21s ran out 2-1 winners against Conference North side, Harrogate Town on Wednesday evening, before a crowd of just over 600.

In lovely conditions for football, sunny and windless and on a good early season surface, Sunderland played a high tempo, short-passing, attacking game constantly looking to put the opposition under pressure. Despite one or two alarms we largely controlled the match with Harrogate having to work hard to stem the numerous attacks.

It was good to see Kevin Ball once again in charge of a young team with the addition of out of favour Phil Bardsley. Bally seemed to have a pronounced limp which I hope isn’t serious. We lined up as Stryek (with Pickford doing his goalkeeping stuff on loan at Burton Albion) Mars, Ferguson, Agnew, Harrison, Bardsley, Watmore, Gorrin, Lawson, Knott and Mitchell. On the bench were: Honeyman, Talbot, Holland, Cartwright and McNamee.

Harrogate took the lead after about six minutes following some defensive indecision with the keeper apparently at fault, but two quick fire replies from a skilful Watmore finish and a Billy Knott free-kick saw Sunderland back in the ascendancy by the quarter of an hour mark. Watmore had an excellent first half – pacy with good control and fine decision-making. He looked a genuine prospect. Bardsley played with energy and enthusiasm seemingly enjoying himself. There was no further score but it was a proper game throughout, rather than a mere ‘friendly’.

The Harrogate ‘keeper made two smart saves in the second half which was generally lacking the excitement of the first. Overall Billy Knott was the star player, always involved and looking to be creative and seeking the quick pass. Adam Mars had a noticeably good second half and honourable mentions need to be given to Alex Gorrin in mid-field and Adam Mitchell on the left wing.

During the game I got talking to a Hibs fan and we had a good old reminisce about Neil Martin, Joe Baker and of course Steven Fletcher, whom he rated very highly. I don’t know how the game came to be arranged but Sunderland gave a great account in all areas and conducted themselves in the most professional way that Paolo seems determined to encourage.

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