Ross Preston clears the ball during the first half of the match. Photograph: Simon Mears.
For more photos from the match please click here.
Two sides in need of a win - Sunderland RCA and Chester-le-Street Town - went into today’s Northern League match at Meadow Park on the back of losing runs - RCA have lost their last four matches, following a seven-match winning streak, while Chester-le-Street have lost their last five games. But despite being at the foot of the table, Chester-le-Street are a side not to be underestimated - It took a penalty shoot-out for North Shields to knock them out of the League Cup, after a creditable 1-1 draw. And in their previous match, they recorded their only home win of the season after beating League champions Shildon 2-1 in arguably the most notable result of the season.
RCA won the reverse fixture 4-2 back in August with a penalty from Jonathan Davis and a Stephen Callen hat-trick.
RCA made three changes to the side that lost to Marske United last time out - Ross Preston returned to captain the side in the absence of the injured Greg Swansbury, and Reece Noble and Brad Wilson returned, replacing Stephen Callen and Nathan Cummings.
The sides lined up as follows:
RCA: Carmichael; Gordon; McGuinness; Preston (c); Hodgson; Noble; Charlton; Wilson; Butler; Davis; Cassidy.
Chester-le-Street: Wilson; Stephenson; Reynolds; Grant; Grant-Soulsby; Hepplewhite; Hailes; Megran; Surrey; Laws; White.
RCA went straight on the attack, kicking down the slope as McGuinness made a driving run down the centre and fired in a shot that was deflected narrowly wide for a corner. From the Davis corner Hodgson’s header was blocked. Three minutes later, a long ball from Noble was controlled by Butler, who exchanged passes with Davis, before his cross was blocked for a corner. Davis’ corner was met with a powerful McGuinness header which produced an excellent save from Wilson in the Chester-le-Street goal. In the eighth minute Chester-le-Street had their first attack of note - after some good play down their right, the ball was crossed into Laws whose shot was blocked by Hodgson and a follow-up cross found White but the flag went up for offside. One minute later Cassidy made a run down the left and played the ball back to McGuinness whose cross was headed wide by Wilson.
On the quarter hour mark McGuinness played a long ball to Butler whose sublime flick perfectly played in Wilson whose shot was heading for the bottom corner until Wilson superbly tipped the ball around the post. Goal kick awarded. Two minutes later and two successive Chester-le-Street free-kicks were both cleared. The match then went through a rather scrappy period of play with neither side creating any noteworthy opportunities. In the 30th minute a cross from Hailes was held by Carmichael and, shortly after a free-kick was fired over the crossbar by White.
In the 38th minute RCA produced their best move of the match - Davis played the ball in to Butler on the edge of the penalty area, and Butler’s first-time lay-off found Cassidy who unleashed a ferocious shot which was brilliantly and acrobatically turned over the crossbar by Wilson. Terrific stuff! With five minutes until half-time the lively Hailes was fouled by Noble after making another run down the left wing. White’s free-kick was comfortably held by Carmichael. Two minutes later Wilson played in Charlton down the left but his shot was saved by Wilson. And RCA created a further chance as Butler played in Charlton but his stabbed effort went narrowly wide of the post as the home side finished the half strongly.
Half-time: Sunderland RCA 0 Chester-le-Street Town 0
RCA got the second half underway on the offensive as an early McGuinness free-kick went behind for a goal-kick. Three minutes later substitute McBryde played in Butler, who was clean through but flagged for offside. And then a free-kick, after a foul on Butler, was taken by Davis but no one could get on the end of it. In the 51st minute Chester-le-Street had a great chance to open the scoring as the ball was played into Megran but his attempted lob was caught by a stretching Carmichael. Six minutes later, and with Chester-le-Street now in the ascendancy, a Megran free-kick was cleared by the head of Hodgson and the follow-up shot from White was deflected for a corner.
As the match entered the final 20 minutes Laws made a run down the right and crossed to Hailes whose shot from the edge of the penalty area went over the crossbar. Seconds later and this time it was Surrey making a run down the right - his dangerous, low cross bobbled around in the RCA six-yard area before the ball fell to Megran, but the ex-RCA man lashed over the crossbar from close range. One minute later and Chester-le-Street had another great chance as Laws was played in clean through and his shot looked goalbound until Carmichael got down to his right to make a top-notch save. With six minutes remaining RCA won a corner after a McBryde shot was blocked. Two minutes later a shot by White was tipped around the post by Carmichael for a corner which was cleared.
Not a great game, but, on the plus side, a point apiece stops the rot for both sides. And - as one supporter quipped - at least we got some fresh air!
RCA are back in action on Saturday with trip to West Allotment Celtic.