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Newton Aycliffe 0 Sunderland RCA 2

Submitted by Simon Mears on Thursday, 3 May 2018
Wednesday, 2 May 2018
Northern League 1

RCA captain Greg Swansbury sees the ball out of play late in the match, recording a third successive clean sheet.

For more photos from the match please click here.

Goal scorers - RCA: Elliott; Page.

Sunderland RCA travelled to Newton Aycliffe tonight knowing that wins tonight and at home to Jarrow Roofing on Thursday would guarantee a fourth-place finish.

RCA made one change to the side that hammered Bishop Auckland on Monday night, with Colin Larkin replacing Stephen Callen.

The two sides lined up as follows:

Aycliffe: McLaren; Banks; Weldon; Brown (c); Browne; Grant-Soulsby; Jewson; Costello; Stephenson; Trotter; Matthews.

RCA: Pocklington; Armstrong; McNab; Preston; Swansbury (c); Elliott; Charlton; Hodgson; O'Neill; Page; Larkin. Subs: Ashton; Morris; McGuinness; Noble; Limbo.

After an uneventful start to the match, RCA had the first attempt on goal in the ninth minute - Page played a ball into Elliott, whose shot from just outside the Aycliffe penalty area cleared the crossbar. One minute later and Larkin crossed from the right and Charlton headed wide from the edge of the penalty area. RCA kept up the pressure - an Armstrong throw-in on the RCA right was flicked on by O'Neill and cleared for a corner which, in turn, was cleared. In the 19th minute RCA took the lead - a forward ball was played up to Charlton on the edge of the Aycliffe penalty area. Charlton took a touch before laying the ball into the path of Elliott, who finished well for his 15th goal of a terrific first season at RCA. Dylan has scored the opening goal in each of RCA's last four matches.

On the half hour mark, a ball was played up to O'Neill, who controlled superbly before turning and firing in a super half-volley from the edge of the Aycliffe penalty area that produced an excellent save from McLaren, diving to his right. Page followed up but wasn't able to hit the target under pressure from McLaren. Six minutes later and RCA won a corner on the right after good play from Charlton. Elliott's corner was cleared to the far side, where Larkin’s cross skimmed the crossbar and Elliott drove in a shot from close range that was well blocked for a corner which was cleared. With half-time approaching, RCA had two great chances to double the lead - first, Page made a typical driving run into the Aycliffe penalty area, went to ground, and the referee awarded a penalty kick. Larkin stepped up and struck the ball well, but McLaren went the right way to make an excellent save. Then, a couple of minutes later, Larkin delivered a terrific cross in from the left and O'Neill headed over the crossbar from close range.

Half-time: Newton Aycliffe 0 Sunderland RCA 1

Just two minutes into the second half and RCA had a further chance to double the lead - Larkin crossed low from the left, but the ball was just in front of O'Neill and was cleared to the edge of the penalty area, where Hodgson fired a shot over the crossbar. After offering little threat in the first half, the home side began to exert some pressure on the RCA goal - Matthews made a good run down the left and into the RCA penalty area and won a corner after his cross was blocked by Swansbury. From the corner, Pocklington punched the ball clear, and Brown played in Jewson, whose shot was blocked for a subsequent corner which was held by Pocklington.

In the 51st minute, and with Aycliffe pressing forward, RCA launched a swift counterattack, as Charlton raced fully 50 yards down the inside right channel, cutting into the penalty area and firing in a fierce shot that was well blocked by McLaren and the loose ball was cleared. Four minutes later and RCA were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Page - Elliott's free-kick was flicked on by O'Neill to Preston, whose fierce, goal bound shot was blocked. Aycliffe then set up a counterattack of their own, as Jewson sprinted to the edge of the RCA penalty area before firing in a shot that was well saved by Pocklington.

RCA then created a couple of further half chances - first, O'Neill flicked a long ball onto Larkin, who played in Page at the edge of the Aycliffe penalty area, whose shot was comfortably held by McLaren. Then, Page made a good run into the Aycliffe penalty area before pulling the ball back to O'Neill, who fired over the crossbar. In the 69th minute, RCA doubled the lead as a cross from the left from Page slipped through the hands of McLaren, rebounded off the far post and into the net for his 13th goal of the season - another player who has had a superb first season at RCA. In the 80th minute, Luke Page was replaced by Reece Noble. And five minutes later RCA made a double substitution, with James Armstrong and Nathan O'Neill being replaced by Adam McGuinness and Dimitri Limbo. In the final minutes of the match, Aycliffe substitute Wood was dismissed for two yellow cards in as many minutes.

At this stage of the season, with games coming thick and fast, to win three matches in a row in five days - without even conceding a goal - really is a tremendous effort.

RCA's unbeaten run is extended to ten matches, with one game to play.

Tonight's RCA man of the match was chosen by RCA goalkeeping coach Carl Morris. Carl picked Craig Hodgson for his “non stop grafting and organising - an unsung hero of the team”. Well played, Craig!

RCA's final match of a fantastic season is on Thursday, 3 May, when Jarrow Roofing are the visitors to Meadow Park for a 7:30pm kick-off. A huge match for both clubs. Please get along if you can - a win will guarantee RCA at least a fourth-place finish.