Stephen Callen scores RCA's second goal late in the match.
For more photos from the match please click here.
Goal scorers - RCA: Larkin; Callen.
Sunderland RCA returned to Northern League action this afternoon with a trip to Team Northumbria.
RCA made three changes to the side that lost at South Shields on Tuesday. Jack Vaulks - signed on Friday on a month's loan from Darlington - made his debut, and Ross McNab and Jonathan Davis returned to the side too, replacing Craig Hodgson, Adam McGuinness and Nathan O'Neill.
The two sides lined up as follows:
Team North: Purvis; Green; Heywood; Jewitt; McKeown; McNamara (c); Carr; Spence; Ardelean; Richardson; Dibb-Fuller.
RCA: Bussey; Noble; McNab; Vaulks; Swansbury (c); Davis; Charlton; Page; Larkin; Elliott; Callen.
RCA got the match off to a positive start, and, in the opening minute, a ball was played up to Callen who turned and fired a shot into the side netting from the edge of the penalty area. Two minutes later and Team North had their first chance of the match as Spence raced onto a through ball and drove into the penalty area but dragged his shot across the face of goal. In the 10th minute, Ardelean made a good run down the left wing and crossed to the front post where Richardson fired wide under pressure from Swansbury. Three minutes later and the ball was played up to Larkin who shot wide. In the 15th minute, the home side were unlucky not to take the lead - Dibb-Fuller made a driving run down the left, cutting into the penalty area, before firing in a shot that crashed off the post and went behind for a goal-kick. Two minutes later and RCA won a free-kick midway inside the Team North half after a foul on Page. Elliott's free-kick was headed over the crossbar by Callen.
Midway through the first half now and Team North missed a great chance to take the lead as Green made an excellent run from right full-back up to the edge of the penalty area before whipping in a dangerous cross which Richardson lifted over the crossbar from close range. Seven minutes later and Team North produced a good move down the right and Dibb-Fuller dinked a lovely ball into the RCA six-yard area, where Carr turned and fired a shot over the crossbar. In the 36th minute, more good build-up play from the home side lead to Spence firing a shot wide of the post. Three minutes later and RCA took to lead - an upfield ball from Team North was chested down by Swansbury, who then played a super, perfectly-judged ball in behind for Larkin to run onto and slot the ball past the advancing Purvis and into the unguarded net for his 10th goal of the season. With half-time approaching, again Swansbury was the provider, playing another ball up to Larkin, whose shot on this occasion was blocked. And one minute later, Carr fired in a shot that Bussey did well to save a full stretch, diving to his right and the loose ball was cleared.
Half-time: Team Northumbria 0 Sunderland RCA 1
During the interval, Nathan O'Neill replaced the injured Luke Page. An uneventful start to the second half, with no noteworthy efforts on goal. In the 66th minute, Larkin was released in on goal but dragged his shot wide from the edge of the penalty area. Two minutes later and RCA won a free-kick on the left, 20 yards inside the Team North half. Elliott's free-kick was chested down by O'Neill on the edge of the six-yard area and Larkin fired the ball wide. One minute later and Dibb-Fuller made a good run down the left before playing in a super, low cross which Richardson got a touch to at the far post, but couldn't direct it towards goal. In the 71st minute Dibb-Fuller was again in the action, driving in a shot from the edge of the penalty area that was well blocked by Vaulks. From the loose ball, Richardson fired a follow-up shot wide.
As the match entered the final 15 minutes there was good play from O'Neill, controlling a long ball out of defence, before releasing Larkin with a terrific pass. Larkin raced onto the ball but shot wide from just outside the penalty area. One minute later and Spence fired in a shot from 20 yards that was comfortably held by Bussey. In the 81st minute, James Armstrong replaced Dylan Elliott. Two minutes later and RCA won a free-kick which Davis delivered into the danger area and Charlton fired the ball over the crossbar. As the match was going into stoppage time, RCA sealed the points - Callen received the ball on the edge of the penalty area and his shot was either scuffed or took a deflection, but the ball bobbled into the net for his 8th of the season, and 50th goal for the club in total (many thanks to Rob Jones for stats on RCA's previous seasons).
A hard-fought win for RCA this afternoon and our second league double of the season. It wasn't the prettiest of matches, not helped by a strong cross field wind, but effective and a clean sheet.
RCA move ahead of Dunston UTS to eighth position on goal difference and with games in hand to go fifth.
Today's match marks the midway point of RCA's league campaign, with 37 points from 21 matches played. A quick piece of elementary maths concludes that if we can replicate the first half points total in the second half of the season we'll finish with 74 points - which would have been enough to finish fifth last season. If only it were that simple!
This afternoon's RCA man of the match was chosen by your correspondent (only because I forgot to ask someone else!). I chose RCA captain Greg Swansbury: Greg returned to the starting line-up in Tuesday's cup defeat at South Shields after a long lay-off with a foot injury. This afternoon I thought Greg marshalled the back four superbly in keeping a clean sheet, was, as usual, great at vocally encouraging and geeing-up the lads, and played a terrific ball in behind the Team North back line to set up Larks for the opening goal - in short, a captain's performance. Well played, Greg!
Next up for RCA is a Boxing Day fixture as Consett are the visitors to Meadow Park - a great chance to see some quality live football, get some fresh air, and have a couple of hours free from the sight of mince pies and turkey sarnies! Please note kick-off is at 11am.
A Merry Christmas to one and all - see you on Boxing Day.