The FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round and it’s a trip to Dunston’s UTS Stadium for the loyal RCA supporters.
Another ground that has seen a massive transformation during the close season with the addition of new perimeter fencing and dug outs. The pitch itself also looked in good condition.
As always we received a warm welcome from our hosts at Dunston and with a near 400 crowd the scene was set for a good game of football.
After naming the team RCA were struck by what is now being called the No:4 Jinx, Ross Preston originally down as No: 4 on the teamsheet pulled up in the warm up and was replaced by Sam Lilley he also pulled up with a recurrence of an old injury and he was replace by Dominic Moan, third selection change in 20 minutes all revolving around the No 4 shirt.
SRCA: Dean, Allen, McNab, Moan, Swansbury (c),K Davis, Leonard, Elliott, Davison, O’Neill, Callen. Subs: Ezard, Slack, Charlton, Dorward, C Davis.
Dunston: Dryden, Marrs, Halliday (C), Craig Scott, Capewell, Grant-Soulsby, Heslop, Page Fitzpatrick, Cedwyn Scott, Hall.Subs not used: Elliott, Ward, Lowther, Wright, Brooks,Thear.
The match kicked off in glorious sunshine with with RCA attacking the Clubhouse end of the ground. It took some time for both teams to settle as they tested each other out and for much of the opening 10 minutes the ball was pinged from one end to the other with little in the way of football being played.
The first real attempt on goal came in the 10th minute when Halliday played the ball forward to Cedwyn Scott, he held the ball up before laying it into the path of ex RCA man Luke Page who fired in a low shot which went narrowly wide of the upright.
Shortly after this attempt another break down the left saw Halliday whip in a cross which was met by the head of Heslop but Dean saved easily.
RCA’s defence was holding up well but it has to be said that the Dunston attack was lacking in the final third.
At the other end a smart move almost saw RCA take the lead, Leonard received a long kick out by Dean and played it to Allen, he fired the ball forward to Davison who deftly flicked the ball between two defenders and into the path of the advancing Leonard and it was only the despairing dive of Craig Scott which blocked a certain goal.
A freekick to RCA a minute later and Moan’s cross was headed by O’Neill to Leonard who fired in a cross to the far post but Davison’s header flew just wide of Dryden’s goal.
Dunston reacted with the best move of the game so far, a long throw from Halliday was headed down by Page to Cedwyn Scott, his shot was blocked by McNab but fell to Marrs, he cut in from the right and fed the ball to Hall who thundered in a low shot which went just wide of the target.
With half an hour gone neither keeper had been seriously tested, for the home side a shot by Heslop from long range never troubled the RCA goal. When Cedwyn Scott tried his luck Swansbury was on hand to block the shot and McNab cleared the danger.
As the game drifted towards half time Allen and Leonard combined to set up Elliott but he blasted his shot well over the bar and shortly after Mr Howlett blew the whistle to bring an uneventful first half to a close.
Dunston started the second half well and it took a good reaction save from Dean to deny Fitzpatrick from close range in the 48th minute.
Having played most of the first half launching balls into the air both sides now looked to play football on the ground. Dunston were looking slightly more composed while RCA continued to close down quickly in the middle of the park denying Page in particular space to create anything.
On the hour mark a sustained attack from the hosts saw Capewell cross into the box where Fitzpatrick hooked in a shot which was well saved by Dean. Then Fitzpatrick picked out Marrs on the overlap and his cross into the box was met by the unmarked Page but he slashed his effort well over the bar.
RCA were being forced to defend in numbers but were coping admirably. A corner from Marrs on the right was headed over the bar by Capewell under pressure from Allen.
The best chance of the game came in the 68th minute when a defensive mix up between Dean and Allen saw the ball land and the feet of Cedwyn Scott in front of an open goal he lashed his shot over the bar with Dean struggling to get back into goal, a little composure would surely have sent Dunston into the next round.
Two minutes later and Swansbury and Fitzpatrick clashed on the edge of the box with the RCA player looking to have caught the Dunston striker the referee awarded a freekick which Marrs curled round the wall and into the arms of a grateful Dean.
Having stemmed the flow of attacks by the home team the visitors started to mount a series of attacks of their own, Callen picked up a through ball from Elliott, skipped past three challenges before shooting from the edge of the box but his effort lacked power and was easily saved by Dryden.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes it was RCA who were seeing more of the ball, a right wing attack saw Leonard cut inside his marker lay the ball into O’Neill whose cross was headed over the bar by K Davis with Dryden struggling to get to the ball.
Another quick break saw Elliott play the ball to Callen who was fouled on the edge of the box. Davies took charge of the kick sending a dipping shot narrowly over the bar.
Dean kept RCA in the tie with a magnificent save in the first of five minutes of injury time to deny Cedwyn Scott after the Dunston striker had been played through on goal by Page, Allen cleared the rebound up field to the relief of the RCA supporters.
In the dying minutes of the game a cross into the box by Leonard only needed a touch by O’Neill but even using his long legs he was unable to stretch that extra inch which would have undoubtedly sent RCA into the next round.
RCA came with a game plan and executed it to the letter, they maybe carried a little luck at times but that is what the cup is all about. This was far from a classic and most supporters would have been disappointed that the game was a bit flat.
The replay will be at Sunderland LGV Park on Wednesday, 11 september 2019 with a 7.30pm kick off.
As the game must be concluded on Wednesday a more entertaining game is expected. We look forward to seeing you there.