Craig Hodgson shields the ball from West Auckland captain and former RCA player Thomas Marron.
More photos from the match are here.
RCA were back on their travels following five consecutive home games which had seen progress in the Vase and League Cup, as well as a win, a draw and a defeat in the league. West, meanwhile, had lost five and won one of their last six matches - although I did see them defeat Ryhope Colliery Welfare 5-3 earlier this month. So an intriguing game was in prospect with West looking to continue their climb away from the relegation zone, and RCA consolidating in mid table and looking to push back up the league table.
RCA made one change to the team that started the 3-3 draw with Consett last Saturday with Armstrong in at left back and Richardson moving over to right back in the absence of C Davis. The teams lined up thus.
West: Shaw, Marron (c), Nelson, Hassan, Jones, Elgie, Ruddy, Hudson, Burnicle, Caley, Elliot.
RCA: Carmichael, Richardson, Armstrong, Preston, Swansbury, Hodgson, Charlton, Larkin, Butler, Robinson, Callen.
The match began with RCA kicking up the slope and in the sixth minute got off to the perfect start. Charlton received the ball inside the box and, whilst looking for a sight of goal, looked to be tripped. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, despite strong protests from the West players. Larkin calmly dispached the spot kick into the bottom, right corner to give RCA an early lead. An uneventful period of play followed until West equalised in the 21st minute. Some neat play on the edge of the box between Burnicle and Hudson resulted in a shot saved by Carmichael, however, the loose ball was seized upon by Hudson and the ex-RCA man slotted the ball home from eight yards. Five minutes later - and with West very much in the ascendancy - Elliot drove down the left and into the box before unleashing a shot that was saved by Carmichael.
In the 26th minute West were awarded a penalty and in the resulting melee Butler was shown a straight red card by the referee. Burnicle stepped up to take the penalty and promply thundered the ball off the face of the crossbar and it was hacked to safety. With RCA down to 10 men Callen was switched from left wing to plough a lone furrow up front and Robinson was moved out to the left. West continued to create chances and in the 34th minute took the lead. Burnicle's initial shot was saved by Carmichael but the ball rebounded to Caley who made no mistake. 5 minutes later Richardson was booked for a foul on Elliot. The free kick was cleared but West kept up the pressure when Burnicle played in Caley down the left but his shot was wide of Carmichael's goal. Just before half-time RCA were awarded a free kick for a foul on Callen. Armstrong's kick was only half cleared to Larkin who, from 20 yards, drove his shot wide.
Half-time: West Auckland Town 2 Sunderland RCA 1
The second half began with West on the attack. In the 48th minute substitute Gardner fired in a shot that was tipped around the post by Carmichael. Barely a minute later and Caley surged into the box but effort was well blocked by Swansbury.
RCA were now beginning to get a grip of the second half and in the 55th minute Armstrong fired in a free kick after a foul on Larkin. Three minutes later a pinpoint through ball from Charlton put Callen in on goal but his shot was saved by Shaw. The pressure on West's goal was becoming relentless now with RCA winning numerous corners and free kicks in dangerous areas. The 75th minute brought arguably the best chance for RCA to equalise as Larkin was put clean through, but his attempted lob was held by Shaw at full stretch. One minute later Robinson went on a run down the left wing, cutting into the box, but as Shaw rushed out to block, Robinson went to ground. The referee was unimpressed despite strong appeals from the RCA players and bench. With 10 minutes remaining, substitute Cassidy was fouled midway inside the West half. Armstrong sent in an absolute snorter of a kick which went agonisingly wide - with Preston inches away from connecting at the far post. The final few minutes saw West retaining the ball to see the game out for a hard-fought win.
Although the match ended in defeat, great credit to the 10 RCA lads who battled for every ball, and every second ball in the second half. Just as we did at Guisborough earlier this season (coincidentally the only other occasion we've worn the blue and white halves this season), 10-man RCA took the game to the opposition in the second half with a spirited display.
The day's crack - aside from wondering why John Butler had been dismissed - chiefly centred around the upcoming Vase match. would it be Dunston or Hemsworth? A trip up the A1 or down the A1? The two teams meet, at the fourth time of asking, on Tuesday, November 29th. A decisive result would be nice. I think I can feel a trip to Dunston on the cards on Tuesday.