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Sunderland RCA 3 Bishop Auckland 1

Submitted by Rob Jones on Sunday, 28 February 2016
Saturday, 27 February 2016
Northern League 1

Ouch. The returning Jonny Wightman, scorer of RCA's first goal, goes in where it hurts in the first half of the match.

Goal scorers: SRCA: Wightman, Charlton, Hatch Bishops: Johnson

Please click here for more photos from the match.

The last time Sunderland RCA played Bishop Auckland they suffered a 4 - 1 drubbing, but then we went on a 17 match unbeaten run. Bishops have turned their season round and have convincingly won their last three games scoring 13 and only conceding two.

With the manager away on holiday it was left to Gee, with the assistance of Larks and Smudge, pick a team to try and get back on a winning streak. They decided to bring fit again James Armstrong in at left back, and Larkin returned up front after work commitments on Tuesday had seen him relegated to the bench. I’m not sure if Clayton ever wins a toss, but it looked like he lost another today although the visitors elected to kick up the slope in the first half.

The opening minute saw Orrit put in a dangerous cross, but it was cleared by Davis and RCA went straight on the attack with Wightman controlling the ball before crossing into Larkin who volleyed in a first time effort which Wilcynski saved well.

A long clearance up field by Wilcynski found Smith who cut inside, but was fouled and a free kick awarded 25 yards out. Johnson took the kick but flighted it over the bar.

RCA took the lead in the fourth minute when a run and cross from Davis on the right was picked up by Larkin who played it into Wightman. The RCA striker, with his back to goal, turned and blasted the ball into the net.

It could so easily have been 2 -0 in the sixth minute when Callen picked up a ball from Brown on the left wing, he dribbled inside beating three players before taking aim, unfortunately the ball bobbled and his shot flew over the bar.

It didn’t take long for RCA to get their second goal. With the Bishop defence in complete disarray Armstrong picked out the run of Wightman down the left, he slipped past his defender and sent in a perfect cross on to the head of Charlton who glanced his header into the net past the bewildered Wilcynski.

Bishops’ response was almost immediate. RCA were once again guilty of conceding a needless free kick on the edge of the penalty area and this time Johnson produced a good effort on target and it took an excellent save from Harkess to maintain the score.

RCA went straight down the other end and this time it was Bishops’ defence who were guilty of a poor challenge resulting in a free kick 25yards out. Noble curled in a wicked kick which fell between the defence and the keeper and Hatch was on hand to get the all important touch to make the score 3 - 0 inside 12 minutes.

What a start for the home team who were absolutely mesmerising, the question was could it continue? The answer lay with Bishops’ lethal weapon Andrew Johnson who latched on to a long kick out by Wilcynski before calmly rounding Harkess and slipping the ball into the net to make it 3 - 1.

RCA responded well to this setback and were unlucky when Davis and Brown combined to set up Larkin, but his effort was blocked inside the six yard area by Purewal. Bishops changed their formation to cope with the RCA pressure and it seemed to stem the flow for a while, but they were unable to cope with the pace of Larkin, Davis and Callen and the persistence of Charlton and Wightman.

On the half hour mark a great run by Wightman saw him once again deliver a great cross into the path of Charlton on the edge of the box, but his shot flew inches over the bar. It was all one way traffic at the moment as RCA poured forward looking for the decisive killer blow which would see off their opposition. Bishops to their credit had sorted out their defensive problems, but were restricted too launching long balls forward to Johnson who was being well marshalled by Buchanan and Hatch.

The next big chance of the half came in the 40th minute when RCA won a corner which was taken by Noble, the initial header by Hatch was destined for the goal, but was blocked by Purewal and the rebound fell to Brown on the edge of the box, but his effort flew high over the bar.

The second half, as expected, saw Bishops push bodies forward down the slope and an early effort from McCarthy brought a save from Harkess.

After weathering the early second half pressure by Bishops, RCA produced a scintillating spell of football with Larkin picking up a Brown pass before slipping the ball down the channel for Wightman; he crossed to the far post where Davis met the ball, firing in a powerful shot which Wilcynski saved brilliantly.

Bishops continued their relentless push forward in an effort to get something from the game and in the 55th minute a good run by Smith saw him link up with McCarthy before squaring the ball to Orritt who sent in a low drive which Harkess did well to turn round his post for a corner.

On the hour mark RCA had a great chance to increase their lead when Brown played in a good ball to Larkin whose shot was blocked by Purewal; the ball fell to Callen on the edge of the box and his shot fell to Gordon who tried to place his shot instead of blasting it home and somehow Hoganson managed to clear the ball of the line.

Both teams were visibly tiring now and the game became scrappy with a lot of niggly fouls. To be fair, both defences were coping very well with everything that was being thrown at them. Harkess was called upon to make a good save from a Johnson snap shot and in the 80th minute a Johnson free kick in a dangerous position was blasted inches over the bar.

The game was still flowing from end to end and it looked likely that a goal would come from one of the numerous attacks that were being created, but once again both defences were coping admirably and when the defences were breached both keepers where on hand to tidy up.

In a last ditch attempt to salvage something out of the game Bishops brought on Ward to add height to the forward line and they started to send in high crosses to the target man. His first header fell to Johnson, but he fired wide and from then to the final whistle he was defended well by Hatch and Buchanan.

This was a much improved performance and right through the team there was a determination to succeed.

The two central defenders Hatch and Buchanan were outstanding and Larkin’s willingness to close the ball down was infectious as everyone in the team got a lift from this. Was this Browny’s finest game? Maybe not but it was damned close. Next up Penrith away on Wednesday another hard game and a long mid-week trip.