By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
At the Academy of Light
Sunderland Reserves 4
Newcastle United Reserves 3
Danny Guthrie scored on his return from injury as Newcastle went down to neighbours Sunderland by the odd goal in seven on Wearside.
Guthrie had not played since limping off after 13 minutes of the first pre-season friendly of the summer against Darlington back in July, but capped an encouraging display with a goal in this behind-closed-doors practice match.
That goal, on the stroke of half-time, opened the scoring - but the Black Cats equalised straight from the kick-off through James Armstrong.
Jordan Cook put the home side ahead two minutes into the second half before James McClean and Alex Gorrin gave Sunderland a 4-1 lead in windy conditions.
But a trialist and Michael Richardson - in his first game since returning from a month's loan at Leyton Orient - both scored in stoppage time as United almost staged a stunning comeback.
James Perch and Nile Ranger also played the full 90 minutes for Peter Beardsley and Willie Donachie's team, but Mehdi Abeid was stretchered off in the first half after coming off second best in a 50-50 challenge with Titus Bramble.
Former Magpie Bramble was partnered by Michael Turner in an experienced Black Cats backline, and the home side started brightly with recent signing McClean almost scoring on five minutes, only for Patrick Nzuzi to save the day with a vital tackle, before Craig Lynch saw his header from the resulting corner clip the top of the bar.
After Abeid's injury on 17 minutes, Jordan Cook saw a low free-kick hit the side-netting for Keith Bertschin's team.
But Newcastle began to emerge as a force with Guthrie heavily involved, and the midfielder's delightful pass found Michael Riley sprinting down the left. From the young left-back's cross, Ranger was denied by a fine reaction save from Trevor Carson, who also blocked the striker's attempted follow-up.
Ranger then scuffed a shot on the turn straight at the Sunderland goalkeeper before Bramble headed over from McClean's excellent left-wing cross.
Another raking ball from Guthrie again found Riley, who almost charged through on goal but was stopped in his tracks by defender Louis Laing. But Laing blotted his copybook two minutes later with a sloppy pass straight to Ranger, whose shot just lacked the power to beat Joel Dixon, who had replaced Carson after 38 minutes.
Dixon could do nothing to deny Guthrie on 45 minutes, however, and it was a well-worked goal. Ryan Donaldson slipped in Ranger who skipped into the box and drilled the ball across goal for Guthrie to slide in and tap home.
However, the lead lasted just a few seconds as Michael Liddle cut the ball back from the left for Armstrong to side-foot past Ole Soderberg.
The second half had only just begun when Stephen Folan - perhaps still rusty in only his second game since the back end of last season - was outmuscled down the left by Cook, who was able to run through and slot through Soderberg's legs.
And Folan was then grateful to his keeper for sparing his blushes on 58 minutes, as McClean robbed the Irish defender but was denied by a good block from Soderberg.
The Swedish stopper then saved from McClean once more, keeping out a free-kick, and from Billy Knott, who had shrugged off sub Alex Nicholson to get his shot away.
Guthrie had by now been replaced by a trialist, having played for 63 minutes, and Newcastle missed his presence in midfield. On 73 minutes, Bramble headed on a set-piece for McClean to score his first goal for Sunderland and on 87 minutes, Cook teed up Spanish sub Gorrin to make it 4-1.
But United refused to lie down and, after Ranger had headed over from an inviting Richardson cross, they pulled one back. Donaldson's free-kick was dinked into the box by Sammy Ameobi and the trialist nipped in to take the ball round Dixon and score.
And deep into stoppage time, Bramble's poor clearance allowed Ranger to shoot, and although his effort was saved Richardson was able to force home the rebound.
Newcastle United Reserves (Starting XI): Ole Soderberg, Patrick Nzuzi, Michael Riley, James Perch, Stephen Folan, Michael Richardson, Mehdi Abeid, Danny Guthrie, Sammy Ameobi, Ryan Donaldson, Nile Ranger.