By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Newcastle United Reserves 2 (Inman 16, Campbell 35)
Sunderland Reserves 2 (Wickham 9, 50)
Both Newcastle and Sunderland included a whole host of players with senior experience at the Sports Direct Arena - but goals from two of United's younger players gave them a share of the derby spoils.
Australian midfielder Bradden Inman made it five goals in four Barclays Under-21 Premier League fixtures to cancel out Connor Wickham's opener before 17-year-old Adam Campbell made it four in four for him ten minutes before half-time.
And although Wickham scored a second early in the second half, both sides emerged with their pride intact after a hard-fought Tyne-Wear clash played in front of 1,776 supporters.
The likes of Dan Gosling, Shane Ferguson and Sammy Ameobi started for Newcastle while Louis Saha, David Vaughan, Dong Won Ji and Matthew Kilgallon featured for a similarly strong Sunderland second-string.
Ameobi had the game's first opening as he worked space for himself on the edge of the area before letting fly, but despite the power on his shot it was an easy take for ex-Darlington goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
Then JJ Hooper bullied right-back Louis Laing and cut the ball back for Campbell, who tried to take the ball around the keeper but was denied by a fine challenge from Kilgallon before the same pair linked up only for Campbell's shot to sail well off target.
But against the run of play, the visitors took the lead much to the delight of the small band of Black Cats supporters in the North-East corner. Vaughan carried the ball upfield past two or three challenges before finding Billy Knott, and his low cross from the left was tapped home from three yards by Wickham, who looked suspiciously offside.
Hooper sent a curling strike dropping just over the bar on the quarter of an hour mark but seconds after that, United were level. Campbell crossed from the right and Pickford dropped the ball straight at the feet of Inman, who slotted into the empty net from ten yards out.
Parity could have lasted little over a minute but for a superb double-save from Jak Alnwick, whose brother Ben is a former Sunderland keeper. Wickham teed up Saha whose initial effort was parried by the Magpies custodian but the Frenchman followed up and looked a certain scorer only for ex-England under-18 international Alnwick to thwart him for a second time.
Then, after the dangerous Ameobi had hammered a shot just wide after a swift counter-attack, the keeper made another brave block to deby Ji - although the South Korean had been flagged offside.
After something of a lull in the match, United then went ahead on 35 minutes as Ameobi passed to Campbell and the striker checked back then shot, with his effort taking a massive deflection off defender John Egan before sneaking inside the post.
It was almost three as Mehdi Abeid's low cross was met by Hooper, but his first time shot was straight at Pickford, then the keeper made a stunning save to atone for his part in United's first goal as Hooper slid Campbell in only for the keeper to fly to his left and keep the ball out.
At the other end, Wickham scampered onto Saha's pass but was forced wide by Gosling, who tracked him all the way, and his effort was blocked by Alnwick at his near post.
In the 45th minute, many of the Newcastle fans thought it was 3-1 as Ameobi jinked into the box and let fly. His shot hit the side-netting - much to the disappointment of those who thought the back of the net had rippled, but they were happy enough at the break as their side led against their local rivals.
But not for long, as four minutes after the restart Sunderland were level with a carbon copy of the first goal - Wickham tapping home after a low right-wing cross evaded the defence. United waited in vain for a flag but it didn't come and it was 2-2.
The outstanding Saha latched onto a loose pass and took the ball round Alnwick, but missed an open goal from a narrow angle before Egan almost deflected a second shot of the night in for Newcastle; this time Ameobi's flick hit the defender but Pickford made a vital stop, then Newton's strike looped off a defender but the keeper saved comfortably this time.
As the hour mark approached, Saha poked the ball through to Wickham but Alnwick was out quickly to deny him a hat-trick and that proved to be the England under-21 striker's last action as he was replaced by Jordan Laidler moments after Saha flashed a shot across goal.
Then came United's best chance of the second period as Campbell raced in on goal but was thwarted by another top drawer save from Pickford then at the other end Vaughan drilled a shot just wide.
On 70 minutes came the sad sight of Michael Richardson being stretchered off after what looked like an innocuous incident. Yven Moyo came on in his place and Dan Gosling stepped in at centre-back.
Ameobi dribbled forward and saw his 25 yard piledriver fly just wide but it was the Black Cats who ended the game the stronger. First Knott dinked in for Saha, whose overhead kick from six yards was straight at Alnwick, then Laing's cross was met by Ji but Abeid made a crucial block.
Ji then played the ball across goal to where Adam Reed was sliding in but, under pressure from Ferguson, he couldn't direct the ball goalwards before Saha blasted over with a snapshot on the turn.
In stoppage time, either side could have won it - first United when Ameobi raced up the right and drilled an effort just wide, then Sunderland as Abeid chopped down Laidler when he looked to be inside the box, only for a free-kick to be awarded which was taken by Vaughan and headed inches over by Saha.
But it finished all square in front of Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill and Newcastle Assistant Manager John Carver and Managing Director Derek Llambias.
Newcastle United Reserves: Jak Alnwick, Mehdi Abeid, Michael Richardson (Yven Moyo 70), Curtis Good (c), Shane Ferguson, Sammy Ameobi, Conor Newton, Dan Gosling, Adam Campbell, Bradden Inman, JJ Hooper
Subs not used: Jonathan Mitchell, Alex Nicholson, Michael Riley, Marcus Maddison
Sunderland Reserves: Jordan Pickford, Louis Laing, Blair Adams, Adam Reed (c), John Egan, Matthew Kilgallon, Dong Won Ji, David Vaughan, Louis Saha, Connor Wickham (Jordan Laidler 60), Billy Knott (Adam Mitchell 83)
Subs not used: Joel Dixon, David Ferguson, Liam Marrs
Referee: Iain Turner