Sunderland RCA travelled to Dean Street, for their Ebac Northern League encounter with Shildon. Expectations were high for an entertaining game after their encounter in the FA Vase in December.
RCA kept the same starting eleven that beat Whitley Bay at Hillheads, on the bench Sam Lilley replaced Clayton Davis as the only change to the squad.
The teams lined up as follows:
Sunderland RCA: Pocklington, Howard, Lavery, Preston, Swansbury (c), Moan, K Davis, Page, Davison, O’Neill, Larkin. Subs: Hodgson, Charlton, Croft, McAloon, Lilley.
Shildon: Newbrook, Heywood, Robson, Moore, Curl, Duell, Palmer, Trotter (c), Atkinson, Steel, Gruelich-Smith. Subs: Ellison, Hird, Eltringham, Johnson, Waters.
RCA had cracking start to the match taking the lead inside three minutes. Page played the ball out to Larkin on the left, he cut inside Heywood, and played the ball into O’Neill, he turned and shot at goal forcing a good save from Newbrook, but Davis was quick to pounce on the loose ball and fired into the net.
Larkin was enjoying a lot of freedom in the early stages and another cross into the box caused panic in the Shildon defence with Moore scrambling the ball clear. A minute later and another cross from Larkin was met by Davis, but his well directed header was easily saved by Newbrook.
Shildon’s first meaningful attack came down the right, Palmer picking up the ball inside the RCA half and sending in a wicked cross which was missed by Pocklington and eventually went behind for a corner. In the process of clearing the resulting corner Pocklington was injured and had to receive extensive treatment on his back before he was able to continue.
In the 23rd minute an innocuous challenge between Kyle and Robson saw the RCA player red carded. RCA re-organized and the game became very scrappy with neither team able to get a grip on the match.
The nearest Shildon came to scoring was a long range effort from Trotter on the half hour which sailed over the bar.
RCA increased their lead in the 34th minute when a through ball from Page was half cleared, but fell to Davison who smashed the ball past the helpless Newbrook. Shildon tried to respond but their tactic of playing long balls forward was met by a solid RCA defence who were not willing to give anything away.
In the 42nd minute a cross from Trotter was met by Greulich-Smith but, under pressure from Preston, his header sailed over the bar.
As expected Shildon came out for the second half and put immediate pressure on RCA. The dangerous Greulich-Smith was the main target man for Shildon but he was well marshalled by Preston, who was having an outstanding match. He was ably supported by RCA captain Swansbury and full backs Howard and Lavery.
Shildon had the majority of the possession but it was RCA who almost increased their lead when a long ball out of defence fell to O’Neill, he played the ball forward and it was only a last ditch tackle by Curl which diverted the ball wide.
A minute later and Charlton broke through, but his attempted lob went straight into Newbrook’s arms. Shildon introduced ex-RCA player Marc Ellison into the game and he made an immediate impact; picking the ball up in space on the right he whipped in a superb cross which was headed over the bar by Trotter.
RCA’s response was to go down the other end where Charlton forced a corner. The cross was sent deep to Davison who fired the ball into the ground it bounced up and past both Newbrook and Robson on the line and into the Shildon net. RCA 3 – 0 up with 20 minutes to play.
As with all games between these two teams there is always a sting in the tail and it came three minutes later. Ellison again found space on the right to cross into the box and what looked like a routine catch for Pocklington was fumbled and fell to Trotter who could not miss from a yard out.
Game back on and Shildon poured forward looking for something from the game, Moore was pushed into a more forward role and was causing a few problems. To counteract this Hodgson was brought on to replace Larkin.
For all their dominance in the final ten minutes Shildon didn’t really create any real chances. High balls into the box were met by a solid RCA defence, while the RCA midfield scrapped for everthing.
As the game went into time added on, Shildon made one final assault on the RCA goal. They were awarded a freekick 25 yards out. The ball was played into the box and Heywood got a touch on it which sent it past Pocklington and into the corner of the net to make it 3 – 2.
From RCA’s kick off Shildon won the ball back and poured forward, a cross into the box was met by Greulich-Smith which produced a stunning save from Pocklington as he managed to palm the ball away for a corner.
With Shildon keeper Newbrook joining the attack for the corner added pressure was put on the RCA defence but the corner came to nothing and the ten men of RCA came away with the three points.
Next up for RCA is at home against title - chasing Bishop Auckland on Saturday, 23 February 2019.