The bad news is that Boston United were well beaten by Sunderland’s under 21s this evening. The good news is that Boston United were well beaten by Sunderland’s under 21s this evening.
The youthful Black Cats ended the Pilgrims’ unbeaten pre-season run with a comprehensive 5-0 victory.
But the Stadium of Light has been a decent hunting ground for Dennis Greene in recent years, with a number of their young prodigies arriving on loan.
And if this contest was anything to go by, pretty much any member of the team in red and white stripes would be a welcome addition to the Boston squad.
Make no mistake, this was far from United’s strongest XI which kicked off the first half, but the young Sunderland squad were easily the toughest test Boston have faced since reporting back from their summer break.
The away side offered a mixture of composure and style as they earned their victory.
For Boston Cameron Johnson was named in attack alongside Jack Friend after impressing against the Pilgrims for Rossington Main earlier in pre-season.
Dennis Greene’s experimental XI was geared as much around offering much-needed minutes to squad players just as it was about trying out new positions.
Sunderland’s youngsters included Liam Agnew and substitute keeper Max Stryjek, both of whom enjoyed fruitful loan spells at the Jakemans Stadium.
It took just seven minutes for the Black Cats to open the scoring, Mikael Mandron showing a good touch and brute strength to bring down a long ball on his laces and shrug off the attentions of Scott Garner before firing beyond Henrich Ravas at his near post.
It wasn’t a bad way to start the evening, but Mandron’s second goal was even better.
Twenty-five yards from goal the big striker found the back of the net with a casual flick of the outside of the boot.
With just 16 minutes played the Pilgrims fans were already taking note of his name as one to look out for in the future.
Ravas made his first meaningful save of the evening when he did well to hold on to Charis Mavrias’ effort from distance, while at the other end James Talbot had to call on his teammates to spare his blushes.
The Sunderland stopper made the decision to run 10 yards off his line to gather Zak Mills’ long throw, only to completely miss the ball.
However, Jake Sheridan’s strike was blocked and danger was averted.
Josh Robson was next to come to the Black Cats’ rescue, hacking away Carl Piergianni’s header, which appeared to be creeping in at the far post.
United’s best chance fell to Johnson, but the striker fluffed his lines.
Jay Rollins’ low right-wing cross fell kindly for the striker yards from goal, but the attacker somehow skewed his strike wide of the mark.
Mandron had chances to complete a first-half hat-trick but forced a header wide and saw a close-range effort gathered by Ravas after Piergianni’s block had taken the sting out of the strike.
Ravas also did well to save Lyndon Gooch’s stabbed effort at his near post as Sunderland ended the first half as they had started it, the stronger team.
The Pilgrims made six changes at the interval, introducing Mark Jones, Dayle Southwell, Kyle Dixon, Kaine Felix, Jordan Deacey and an unnamed trialist.
After a slow start to the second half Mandron again went in search of his third goal, this time curling a free kick over the Pilgrims’ bar.
Agnew served up the away side’s third of the night with a moment of magic.
His jinking run took him out towards the edge of United’s penalty area, where his left-footed strike rose beyond the helpless Ravas.
The Pilgrims looked to get back into the game, but Jones’ strike off his laces curled away from the target and Southwell’s strike was well saved by Stryjek, who had replaced Talbot.
Two close range finishes put the away side 5-0 up as Gooch found the net in the 77th minute and Daniel Wright added his name to the scoresheet three minutes later.
Game over. But will we be seeing any of these young talents back in Boston?
UNITED: Ravas, Marrs, Mills, Piergianni, Garner, Roberts (Trialist HT), Sheridan (Deacey HT), Johnson (Jones HT), Friend (Southwell HT), Rollins (Dixon HT), McGhee (Dixon HT); Subs (not used): Vince.
SUNDERLAND: Talbot (Stryjek 62), J. Robson, McAvoy, Agnew, Casey, Brady, Maviras (Smith 67), E. Robson (Hume 78), Mandron (Nelson 81), Gooch (Blinco 81), Greenwood (Wright 50).
Ref: Darren Drysdale.