Fleetwood came from behind to beat a youthful Sunderland 2-1 in the final group game of the Papa John’s Trophy.
Callum McFadzean’s goal gave Sunderland the lead and were cruising in the first half, but Joey Barton’s side responded well in the second half with two goals from Barrie McKay and Mark Duffy.
Phil Parkinson made a host of changes for Sunderland’s final group game in the EFL Trophy aka the Papa John’s Trophy. Anthony Patterson, Ollie Younger and Josh Hawkes all made their debuts. There were also starts for youngsters Dan Neil, Elliot Embleton and Jack Diamond.
The game didn't have much meaning with the two teams already into the knockout stages, but from a Sunderland perspective, it was a great chance for some younger players to stake a claim for a place in the league squad.
Following a drab opening ten minutes, Sunderland almost took the lead out of nowhere; Embleton whipped in a lovely freekick which was met by Younger who with a rocket of a diving header struck the bar.
Sunderland took the lead 15 minutes into the match, a ball into Aiden O’Brien was cut out and dropped to Callum McFadzean who fired a first-time effort and with the help of a deflection found the back of the net with a fine strike.
The lads were on top, they were pressing high and not making it easy for the Fleetwood defenders to play their way out.
Diamond was heavily involved through the opening half an hour and his pace was giving Lawrence Smith a torrid time – all he needed to do was improve the final ball.
Sunderland had a lapse in concentration and let Fleetwood in for their first chance as Patterson made a great save to deny Josh Morris’s effort.
The lads almost got a second after some lovely build-up play between Neil and Embleton, McFadzean played it back to Embleton right on the by-line who turned his man, but his shot came back off the post.
Parkinson will have been much the happier of the two managers; his young team looked full of energy and were playing the game with a real tempo.
Embleton was a menace with his set-pieces and almost got lucky as his ball in was flicked onto the bar by a Fleetwood defender. Less than five minutes into the second half and Dunne’s debut was cut short as he looked to have damaged his shoulder as Vinnie Steels came on for his debut. From nowhere Fleetwood drew level, Josh Morris whipped in a lovely ball to Barrie McKay who snuck in behind McFadzean to tap home from six yards. An hour into the game, Sunderland had completely switched off and were behind as Mark Duffy received the pullback from Shayden Morris and tucked it away from 12 yards.
Sunderland were desperately struggling with injuries as McFadzean was the next casualty and was replaced by Sam Wilding.
The lads looked like a different team as the three changes had disrupted the flow, the hosts looked comfortable and were pressing high to great effect.
Fleetwood came so close to extending their lead as McKay’s free kick was whipped up and over the wall, but Patterson was saved by his crossbar.
With less than ten to play Sunderland were trying to get a goal to force the game to penalties but couldn’t find a clear opening.
Sunderland were tiring and, on the break, the hosts came close to adding a third as Shayden Morris’s effort from range was inches away from sealing the points.
Full Time: Fleetwood 2-1 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Elliot Embleton
Sunderland: Patterson; Taylor, Willis ©, Younger (Dunne 45’ (Steels 48’)); Diamond, Neil, Dobson, Embleton, McFadzean (Wilding 61’); Hawkes, O’Brien.
Subs not used: Richardson, Wearne, Curry, Almond.
Fleetwood Town: Cairns, Smith, Hill, Holgate, Rydel, Duffy (Boyle 86’), Rossiter © (Baggley 46’), Finley (Barrett 89’), J. Morris, McKay, S. Morris.
Subs not used: Leutwiler, Edwards, Hayes.