SUNDERLAND missed out on the chance to secure a place in the end-of-season Under-21 Premier League play-offs after a last-gasp 2-1 defeat to West Ham today.
Kevin Ball’s side needed to secure a victory to stand any chance of finishing in the league’s top four and earn a spot in the play-offs.
But after Mikael Mandron’s first half penalty had given Sunderland a lead, they were pegged back by two second half goals - the second of which was a cruel own goal from centre-half Thomas McNamee.
Sunderland were given a debatable 13th minute penalty after Dan Potts looked to have won the ball when he brought down Mandron on the right-hand side of the area, following a good piece of control and through-ball from Rees Greenwood.
But Mandron set aside the protests of the West Ham players and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner, sending keeper Sam Howes the wrong way.
Connor Oliver, currently on loan with League Two Hartlepool, tried an ambitious effort in the 24th minute with a right-footed shot from 25 yards which swerved in the wind and required Howes to push it behind, low to his right.
The first half had been a drab affair, yet the Hammers almost levelled on the stroke of half-time when midfielder Sebastian Lletget curled a left-footed shot just past the post from the edge of the area.
West Ham did pull level in the 56th minute when Matthias Fanimo pulled back a dangerous low ball from the left-hand touchline and Josh Cullen got ahead of the two Sunderland centre-halves to divert the ball over the line from point-blank range.
On the hour mark, Sunderland had a great chance to regain the lead when Alex Gorrin played an excellent slide-rule pass into the path of Mandron, to the left of goal, just outside the box.
But with the West Ham defenders closing him down, Mandron was forced to take his left-footed shot early and it was blocked well by the legs of Howes.
Neither side had threatened to get a winner, but in the second minute of stoppage time, substitute Kieran Bywater crossed from the right and Sunderland defender Thomas McNamee glanced the ball on and into the top corner of his own net.
SUNDERLAND: Dixon, Cartwright, Watson, Gorrin (E Robson 65), McNamee, Beadling, Grenwood, Oliver, Mandron, Laidler, T Robson (Ledger 84). Subs not used: Talbot, Blinco, Sukar. Booked: Mandron (20), McNamee (32)
WEST HAM: Howes, Driver, Mavila, Lletget, Potts, Harney, Fanimo, Whitehead, Brown (Bywater 70), Cullen (Makasi 84), Sadlier. Subs not used: Burke, Nemrava.