Town fell to a late Will Grigg goal as a 1-0 loss to Sunderland at The Stadium of Light saw them defeated in their third and final pre-season fixture.
In a hard fought encounter, Town had enjoyed the better of the play for the most part but couldn’t find a way past an obdurate home defence.
Simon Weaver named a strong starting line-up for the trip to the North-East, whilst former Town-loanee Jack Diamond started on the bench for the hosts, who came into the game on the back of consecutive wins against Carlisle and Gateshead.
It was Town who started the brighter of the two sides, penning the hosts deep in their own box with back to back corners. The first effort on goal though was not until the nineteenth minute when Jon Stead capitalised on an errant pass to set up Josh Falkingham, but the skippers speculative effort failed to hit the target.
Moments later, Tom Walker cut inside impressively to free up George Thomson, who tested Lee Burge in the Sunderland goal for the first time. By now, Town had some momentum behind them and Jack Muldoon again forced Burge into action.
The home side fired a warning of their own on the half-hour mark though with Joe Cracknell having to be alert at his near post to snuff out the danger before a vital block from Warren Burrell from Lynden Gooch kept the game scoreless.
Denver Hulme then slashed a volley wide of Cracknell’s goal before Jack Muldoon outmuscled his marker on the stroke of half-time but saw his left-footed strike turned wide of the goal.
Fallowfield opened the second half well for Town when he saw his shot go narrowly wide but it was Sunderland who forced the initiative in the early stages. The impressive Gooch was at the heart of ther play and it was his ball that set up Luke O’Nien to test Cracknell in the Town goal.
Town made a couple of changes with Mark Beck and Connor Kirby replacing Jon Stead and Lloyd Kerry, but the home side then went closest with Aiden O’Brien’s effort crashing back off the post.
Both managers made further changes as the game wore on and with a second consecutive goalless draw looking the likely outcome, substitute Grigg struck with five minutes remaining for the only goal of the game.
Having finished their pre-season preparations, Town get underway in earnest next Saturday with the trip to Prenton Park to face Tranmere Rovers in the Carabao Cup.
Town: Cracknell, Fallowfield, Smith, Hall (Lokko, 78) Burrell, Thomson, Kerry (Kirby, 71), Falkingham, Walker (Emmett, 78), Muldoon (Kiernan, 79), Stead (Beck, 65).
Sunderland: Burge, Willis (McLaughlin, 65), Wright, Flanagan, O’Nien, Hume, Scowen (Dobson, 79, Power, Maguire, Gooch (Neil, 79), Wyke (Grigg, 67).
Subs not used: Matthews, Feeney, Leadbitter Diamond, Taylor.
Report by Danny Pugsley.