Stephen Callen at full pelt on his way to opening the scoring against Whitley Bay. Photograph: Simon Mears.
For more photos from the match please click here.
RCA goal scorers: Callen; Robinson.
Sunderland RCA welcomed Whitley Bay to Meadow Park for an important mid-table clash - with both sides looking for a win to push towards the upper echelons of the table. Last season RCA ‘did the double’ over Bay in the league, however, this season Bay took the points at Hillheads with a 3-2 win in the reverse fixture back in September.
RCA made two changes to the side that defeated Penrith last Saturday. Craig Hodgson returned to central midfield and Stephen Callen to the left wing, in place of James Armstrong and Kevin Gordon, who took a place on the bench.
The sides lined up like this:
RCA: Carmichael, Richardson, McGuinness, Preston, Swansbury ©, Hodgson, Cassidy, Larkin, McBryde, Charlton, Callen.
Whitley Bay: Flynn, Munro, McDonald ©, Hall, Anderson, Allen, Potter, Patton, Shanks, Brooks, Kempster.
The match got underway with RCA kicking up the slope and with only three minutes on the clock they got their first chance of the match when Flynn sliced a clearance straight to Charlton. A quick look up and Charlton, spotting the ‘keeper off his line, attempted a lob from 25 yards but Flynn, backpedalling, was able to catch the ball under the crossbar. One minute later and Bay had their first chance as Kempster broke down the left but his shot was blocked.
RCA went back on the attack and opened the scoring in the ninth minute with a sublime piece of individual skill - Callen won a high ball on the halfway line before turning the defender and, after running 40 yards at full pelt, calmly slotted the ball into the net via the far post with the outside of his right foot. That’s Callen’s 10th of the season, and a goal worthy of any football match.
Five minutes later and RCA almost doubled their lead as Larkin’s initial shot was cleared, the loose ball fell to McBryde, who, after sidestepping Flynn, chipped the ball towards goal only to see Allen brilliantly clear off the line and over the crossbar. Back on the attack came Bay when a cross from Potter down the right was gathered by Carmichael at the second attempt.
In the 19th minute Preston gave the ball away to Kempster, who beat the onrushing Carmichael but the goalbound effort was cleared off the line by Preston who had the presence of mind to cover the danger and make amends. One minute later a shot from 20 yards by Potter was partially cleared by Preston and then a follow-up effort was cleared by Swansbury as Bay pressed hard for an equaliser. It was end-to-end stuff now as Cassidy battled for possession in midfield before releasing Charlton in on goal, but his shot was scuffed wide. Then, just after the half hour mark, McBryde was put through and in on goal. There was a coming together with the Bay defender but strong appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee.
With ten minutes until half-time, Potter made a run down the right and skipped past McGuinness but his cross was blocked by Callen for a corner which was comfortably caught by Carmichael. A minute later, and this time Kempster made a run down the left before racing into the penalty area. His shot was slotted under the advancing Carmichael but McGuinness was on hand to clear RCA lines for a second time in the match. In the 39th minute RCA had a strong shout for a penalty before a Callen header was superbly clawed away from the top corner by Flynn.
As half-time approached RCA were forced into a substitution when Preston was unable to continue. A minor reshuffle saw McGuinness move to centre back, Richardson to left back and substitute Gordon take the right back position. RCA ended the half strongly with a free-kick by Larkin blocked but the same player curled in a lovely effort from 25 yards that was turned away by Flynn for a corner. A second free-kick by Larkin clipped the wall and went out for a corner.
Half-time: Sunderland RCA 1 Whitley Bay 0
At half-time we sat in the clubhouse defrosting and wondering how on earth there had only been a single goal in the match. We had seen three terrific goal line clearances and numerous other chances go begging in a highly entertaining 45 minutes.
The second half was only five minutes old when McGuinness challenged Shanks down the left and the Bay man stayed down. After a long stoppage, Shanks was unable to continue and was stretchered off. Hopefully the injury isn’t a bad as it first appeared. Shanks was replaced by recent signing Peter Glen-Ravenhill - who was to have quite an impact.
In the 61st minute an RCA corner was met with an overhead kick from McBryde which was well saved by Flynn at the close range, then a follow-up shot from Charlton sailed over the crossbar. Nine minutes later and Bay were so close to an equaliser when Glen-Ravenhill fired in a first-time shot which beat Carmichael but crashed off the post and bounced to safety.
As the match entered the final quarter, Larkin made a lovely counter attacking run down the right and crossed to the far post where Callen brought the ball down but his shot was blocked for a corner which was cleared. At this stage Bay were piling on the pressure in pursuit of an equaliser - restricting RCA to isolated breakaways. In the 75th minute Bay had a shot blazed high over the bar. Two minutes later a cross down the right from Glen-Ravenhill was well blocked at the far post by Gordon for a corner.
With ten minutes remaining Glen-Ravenhill fired in another shot, again beating Carmichael, only to see - amazingly - his shot strike the base of the other post and again rebound to safety. With Bay committing men forward it was always likely that they might leave the back door ajar and in the final minute of normal time Robinson won the ball midway inside the Bay half, turned his marker and was clean through on goal. The RCA substitute raced to the edge of the penalty area before confidently side-footing the ball past the advancing Flynn to win the match.
Whitley Bay will feel that they deserved something from the match, especially after their second half performance in which they had long spells of possession and were unlucky to see two efforts rebound back off the uprights.
Meanwhile, For RCA this was three wins in a row for the first time this season. And a second successive clean sheet demonstrates that we are becoming difficult to beat. Plenty of good performances on show again today and two excellent individual goals in a terrific match.
Up next for RCA is a rapid return to Dunston - scene of our epic Vase victory just a fortnight ago - on Tuesday evening for our final Northern League match before Christmas.