Hanley and McLean in action as City U23s are pegged back in feisty Colney battle with Sunderland

Norwich City U23s v Sunderland U23s at Colney - Kenny McLean Picture: Norwich City

Norwich City U23s v Sunderland U23s at Colney - Kenny McLean Picture: Norwich City - Credit: Norwich City

Norwich City Under-23s were pegged back by Sunderland to draw 1-1 at Colney this evening, with Grant Hanley and Kenny McLean both featuring in a feisty Premier League Two battle.

Anthony Spyrou was on target as City's U23s drew 1-1 with Sunderland at Colney before Christmas Pict

Anthony Spyrou was on target as City's U23s drew 1-1 with Sunderland at Colney before Christmas Picture: Norwich City - Credit: Norwich City

There was a surprise appearance from fit-again first team captain Hanley. Fresh from a 30-minute return to senior action after three months out with a thigh injury during City's 2-2 draw at Bristol City, the defender continued his comeback with a Premier League Two appearance.

Hanley was alongside his Scotland team-mate McLean, who continued his own comeback after three months out with an ankle injury, with 73 minutes to build on the half he played during last week's 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg II at Carrow Road.

Anthony Spyrou wasn't able to connect with an early McLean cross after a fine pass down the wing from left-back Jordan Thomas, in a scrappy first half in which Hanley's experience was vital at the back.

Jack Diamond was the danger man for the visitors on the right wing, cutting on to his left and testing City's veteran goalkeeper Michael McGovern with a low effort in the 26th minute.

It was a foul-laden opening 45 minutes though, with Spyrou clattered on the edge of the box in the 31st minute but McLean's free-kick denied by the jumping wall.

Sunderland left-back Jacob Young headed straight at McGovern from a Diamond free-kick from the right in the 39th minute – and the Canaries made the most of the left-off.

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McLean switched a lovely pass to Josh Coley on the left four minutes later, the winger beat his man and crossed low, with McLean thumping the deflected ball goalwards and denied by a good low save, but Spyrou was on hand to fire into the roof of the net from close range.

It was the forward's sixth of the season, having also scored the late equaliser against Wolfsburg.

McGovern got down well to deny a low shot from Bali Mumba six minutes into the second half and it really should have been 2-0 in the 56th minute.

Fine pace from McLean robbed visiting defender Brandon Taylor and the Scot played a low cross in from the right which Spyrou took in his stride but fired just wide.

From there it was all City but a short back-pass from substitute Adam Phillips was seized on by Black Cats striker Benji Kimpioka, nipping past Hanley and curling low round McGovern from 10 yards.

Ciaren Jones headed over from a Tom Scully corner late on for the hosts and visiting keeper Anthony Patterson missed a 90th minute free-kick from Phillips which was floated in from the right, and grateful to see the ball bounce wide.

There was then huge controversy, as Scully thought he'd won it, firing home into the top-right corner from the edge of the box after Patterson and Spyrou had clattered into each other chasing the ball.

Sunderland were furious and eventually the referee ruled out the goal, ending a confusing minute or so to see the game finish 1-1, with both players limping away and the visitors finishing with an outfield player in goal having used all their substitutes.

It was the last game of 2018 for the young Canaries, who are scheduled to return to action at Reading on Saturday, January 5.

Norwich U23s: McGovern; Odusina (C), Hanley, Jones, Thomas; Payne, Milovanovic (Phillips 66); Scully, McLean (Kamal 73), Coley (Idah 66); Spyrou. Subs: Johnson (GK), Lomas

Booked: Thomas (foul on Diamond, 38)

Goals: Spyrou (43)

Sunderland U23s: Patterson, Storey (Hunter 73), Young, Bale (C), Taylor, Bainbridge, Diamond, Connolly, Kimpioka, Hackett (Connelly 65), Mumba (Neil 81). Unused subs: Johnstone (GK), Leonard

Booked: Connolly (foul on Payne, 42), Young (foul on Odusina, 88)

Goals: Kimpioka (77)

Referee: Chris Pollard

Attendance: 200 (estimated)