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Friday 02 November 2012

Barclays U21s: Sunderland's Wickham too hot for Villa

Connor Wickham brace earns Sunderland home win against Aston Villa; Reading host leaders

  • Connor Wickham scored twice in Sunderland's home win against Aston Villa

  • Blackburn's Raheem Hanley (left) in action during the draw with Arsenal on Monday

  • Josh Murphy helped Norwich overcome Bolton 2-1 on Monday

Sunderland moved level on points with Aston Villa on Thursday after completing a 2-0 Barclays Under-21 Premier League victory against Gordon Cowans's side at the Academy of Light.

Two goals by Connor Wickham proved the difference as the Black Cats fielded a strong side including the former Ipswich Town striker as well as Ji Dong-won, who looked lively throughout.

Wickham broke the deadlock on seven minutes when he latched on to Adam Mitchell’s flick and eluded Courtney Cameron to fire low past goalkeeper Craig Hill. Although Graham Burke hit the post for Villa, Wickham doubled the Wearsiders' lead a minute before the interval after being put through by Ji.

The defeat will come as a blow to Villa, for whom a victory would have moved them above Group 2 rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, who are not in action until the weekend, and to within a point of leaders Newcastle United, who go to Spurs on Saturday morning.

But Villa must settle for fourth place in a competitive section in which only the top three qualify for the Elite Group.

Ewood Park hosts Norwich

On Friday Ewood Park hosts Norwich City's visit to Blackburn Rovers, whose senior side named Henning Berg as their new manager this week. Victory for seventh-placed Rovers, who held Arsenal to a goalless draw this week, will take them level on 13 points in Group One with the Canaries.

Norwich, in third, overcame Bolton Wanderers earlier in the week and can move within a point of the second-placed Gunners with an away win in another tight section in which the top three go through to the next stage.

Rovers season-ticket holders can see the match for free, while general admission prices for the Jack Walker Lower tier at Ewood Park are £4 for adults, £2 concessions.

Irons on fire

Also on Friday Reading have their work cut out against leaders West Ham, who have rattled off five successive Group 1 victories and boast a five-point lead with nine of the 14 rounds played.  

Having mustered eight goals in three unbeaten matches themselves a free-scoring encounter could be in store between the Royals and Ian Hendon's charges.

On Sunday Everton, who lost to West Ham in windy conditions at Rush Green Road last Friday, are hoping to bounce back with a home win against West Bromwich Albion that would take them above their opponents and close in on third place in Group One.

On the same day Manchester City host bottom-placed Chelsea at Platt Lane hoping to close in on second-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers in Group 3, where only the top two sides qualify for the next stage.

Wolves lie six points above Attilio Lombardo's charges, who, like the west Londoners, have managed just one win this season.

The noon fixture was originally scheduled to be played at Hyde FC, but will be staged at Platt Lane where supporters are welcome to come along and attend, although space is limited.

Thursday 1 November result

GROUP 2
Sunderland 2-0 Aston Villa

Friday 2 November fixtures

GROUP 1
Blackburn Rovers v Norwich City, Ewood Park, 7pm
Reading v West Ham United, Hogwood Training Ground, 1pm

Saturday 3 November fixture

GROUP 2

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United, Tottenham Training Ground, 11am

Sunday 4 November fixtures

GROUP 1
Everton v West Bromwich Albion, tbc, 1pm

GROUP 3
Manchester City v Chelsea, Platt Lane, 12pm

Monday 5 November fixtures

GROUP 1
Bolton Wanderers v Arsenal, Lancashire FA, 7pm

GROUP 2
Manchester United v Stoke City, Altrincham FC, 7pm
Sunderland v Southampton, tbc, 7pm

GROUP 3
Crystal Palace v Middlesbrough, Crawley Town FC, 7pm
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Liverpool, Molineux Stadium, 7pm

For all the fixtures and the latest league tables, click here

You can follow developments on Twitter with the Premier League's account @premierleague or via the hashtag #BU21PL

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Key Points

  • Connor Wickham's brace seals win for Sunderland against visiting Aston Villa
  • Ewood Park plays host to Blackburn Rovers v Norwich City on Friday
  • Reading host a West Ham side in search of a sixth successive victory