A windswept Hillheads was the venue for this Ebac Northern League Division 1 fixture.
Neither team has set the league alight this season, but RCA would be looking to avenge the 6-2 drubbing handed out by their hosts earlier in the season.
The spread of the Coronavirus has meant that the “Respect” handshake has been suspended until further notice. The players, therefore, would be led out by the referee and promptly enter the field without the handshake taking place.
The RCA Management team minus the manager (suspended) made one change to the team who drew on Tuesday at Ashington, with Hennis returning to the midfield in place of J Leonard.
The teams lined up as follows:
Whitley Bay: Lister, Bexton, Martin, Bennett, Taylor, Lowery, Fairley, Anderson, Annang-Colquhoun, Robinson, Shepperd. Subs: McFarlane, Jennison, Davison, Olsen, Orrell
SRCA: Dean, Allen, Lawson, Hodgson, Swansbury ©, Hennis, R Leonard, Best, O’Neill, Elliott, K Davis. Subs: Croft, Ezard, J Leonard, Dorward, Slack.
Whitley Bay took advantage of the wind in the first half but it was the visitors who had most of the early possession. As early as the 2nd minute Allen lofted a ball forward, O’Neill rose to head the ball on to K Davis who slipped the ball inside to Elliott but his effort dipped over the bar but it was a promising start for RCA.
RCA almost broke the dead lock in the 8th minute, Hodgson intercepted a pass and moved the ball forward to K Davis who flicked the ball into the path of R Leonard but he fired his shot straight at Lister in the Bay goal.
At the other end and RCA were forced to defend a quick break by Sheppard, he slipped inside before playing the ball into space for Annang-Colquhoun but R Leonard was able to get a tackle in to prevent the Bay striker from shooting.
The game was swinging from end to end and it was RCA who created the next chance when Elliott latched onto a Dean kick out and sent a terrific curling shot goalward but it drifted just wide of the target.
With the wind increasing Whitley Bay started to apply a little more pressure. Fairley picked up a ball from Bennett and broke down the left before squaring the ball back to Bennett but his shot was well saved by Dean.
RCA continued with their passing game while the hosts were a little more direct.
Whitley Bay took the lead In the 26th minute when a good ball forward was picked up by Bennett and his cross into the box was smashed home by ANNANG-COLQUHOUN.
The RCA response was almost immediate with the ball switched out to Lawson who sent a terrific cross into the box but O’Neill could only head over the bar.
With half an hour gone the hosts again pushed forward with Fairley forcing a corner on the right, when the ball was half cleared it fell to Fairley who fired in a low shot which Best did well to block at the near post.
RCA’s next attack saw Lawson on the left cut inside before forcing a corner off Taylor, the quickly taken corner by Elliott was picked up by Lawson who slipped the ball to K Davis but from a good position he fired his shot into the side netting.
Heading into the final five minutes of the first half and the Bay had the ball in the net again this time a cross into the box was cleared by Swansbury but fell to Shepherd, his shot was partially blocked and Annang-Colquhoun pounced to drill the ball home but the assistants flag was raised for offside.
The hosts were seeing a lot of the ball in the dying minutes of the half but were guilty of rushing shots which flew high and wide.
The start of the second half and with the wind getting stronger RCA took the game to Whitley Bay. In the opening minute a ball from Best, now operating as a make-shift right back, picked out K Davis on the right wing, he drove a terrific, low cross into the box where Lister did well to save at the feet of O’Neill.
The Bay responded through Fairley who picked up a Martin clearance before powering in a shot which flew well wide of the target.
During the half time break the RCA management team had obviously changed things about in defence and it was taking some getting used to with Allen operating on the left of defence and Best on the right and Davis playing wide right.
However it did seem effective in stemming the forward momentum of the home team.
With an hour gone RCA were awarded a freekick when O’Neill was fouled 25 yards out, Elliott stepped up and curled a shot round the wall but straight into the hands of Lister.
Five minutes later and the referee spotted another infringement with O’Neill being blocked as he tried to look for a through ball. Up stepped ELLIOTT and this time he made no mistake thundering a terrific shot over the wall and dipping under the crossbar into the top corner with Lister rooted to the spot.
The wind was playing a major part in the game with any high balls drifting the way of RCA, However, it was Whitley Bay who created the next real chance when substitute Orrell received a through ball from McFarlane, dribbled his way into the box past two defenders but fired over the bar.
RCA were almost camped out in the opposition half as they looked for the winner but the hosts defended valiantly and were very effective on the counter attack.
In the 75th minute a clearance from Hodgson was headed back into the RCA penalty area by Taylor, the ball fell to McFarlane who looked certain to score but Dean pulled off an incredible save diving to his left to palm the ball away for a corner.
This prompted the visitors into action and they applied more pressure on the home side's defence. The introduction of Croft to play just in front of the back four made an immediate impact giving R Leonard and Elliott more scope to attack.
Inside the final ten minutes a through ball from Lawson was picked up by O’Neill but his cross cum shot floated wide of the far post.
As the wind increased so did the likelihood of an RCA winner and it duly arrived in the last minute of normal time. A Davis cross from the right was completely missed by everyone and looked to be drifting out for a throw in but it was chased down by R Leonard, he crossed to the far post where Slack headed back across the face of goal and O’NEILL was on hand to head home past the despairing dive of Lister.
This was a good three points away from home, the whole game was spoilt by the wind but RCA adapted well to the conditions and on the second half performance deserved the win.
We are still lacking a defender and are being forced to play players out of position to accommodate the problem. Hopefully this can be resolved over the next week.
Next up we are at home to second placed Shildon on Saturday, 14 March: Kick off 3.00pm.