Take cover! RCA captain Greg Swansbury clears the ball during the second half of the match.
For more photos from the match please click here.
Goal scorers - Consett: Cornish; Mackay. Sunderland RCA: Larkin; Davison.
After three successive victories - including last Saturday's narrow Buildbase FA Vase win over Bridlington Town - second-placed Sunderland RCA made the trip to league leaders Consett for this afternoon's mouthwatering top-of-the-table Northern League match.
RCA named an unchanged starting XI and substitutes bench from the win over Bridlington Town last Saturday.
The two sides lined up as follows:
Consett: Hayes; Green; Holden; Smith; Purewal; Wilkinson; Craggs (c); Lawrence; Sweet; Dowson; Mackay. Subs: Lavery; Male; Gray; Colling; Cornish.
Sunderland RCA: Tsapalos; Lilley; McNab; Preston; Swansbury (c); Hodgson; Charlton; Elliott; O'Neill; Page; Larkin. Subs: Davison; Moan; Kyle Davis; Armstrong; Kokoska.
The match got off to a scrappy start, with a strong wind blowing across the pitch. After an opening ten minutes in which neither goal had been threatened, RCA took the lead in the 11th minute. RCA won a corner on the right, which was delivered into the Consett penalty area by McNab, O'Neill rose well to head the ball down at the far post, and Larkin was first to react with a stooping close-range header. Seven minutes later and Page made a good run through central midfield before playing in Larkin, whose shot from a tight angle was blocked for a corner which was cleared. In the 20th minute, Larkin was again in the action as his cross was headed behind for a corner which was headed clear by Holden. Two minutes later and Consett had their first effort on goal - after some neat build-up play, Smith fired in an ambitious shot from 35 yards which was on target but comfortably held by Tsapalos.
In the 24th minute, RCA were forced into a first substitution, after Dylan Elliott jumped for a header, landed awkwardly and was forced to retire with an ankle injury and was replaced by Mark Davison. Barely a minute later and Consett had a great chance to equalise as a ball was played out to Mackay on the left, who cut into the RCA penalty area but fired his shot wide of the far post. Back on the attack went RCA and Larkin had a shot blocked at the front post by Hayes. Just after the half-hour mark, Holden fired in another long-range effort for the home side that flew high over the crossbar. In the 35th minute, Consett were awarded a free-kick just inside the RCA half for a handball by Swansbury. Craggs’ free-kick was punched clear by Tsapalos under pressure. With seven minutes to the break, Lilley played the ball into the Consett penalty area, where Davison fired in a shot that was well blocked by Hayes.
Half-time: Consett 0 Sunderland RCA 1
During the interval, RCA were forced into a second substitution as Nathan O'Neill, who had received treatment during the first half, was replaced by Kyle Davis.
Consett emerged for the second half fired up and immediately put RCA under sustained pressure, but without really troubling Tsapalos in the RCA goal. In the 57th minute, Consett produced a good move in which they patiently moved the ball around the pitch, making at least 15 passes, before playing in Mackay down the left whose cross was blocked for a corner which was cleared by Swansbury. In the 68th minute, and completely against the run of play, RCA doubled the lead - Page broke from inside the RCA half before playing the ball forward to Davison who guided a shot from 25 yards across Hayes and into the far corner. Precision over power. Consett kept up the pressure on RCA, and, in the 73rd minute, substitute Cornish fired a shot over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area. Three minutes later and RCA made their final substitution, with Dominic Moan replacing Michael Charlton.
As the match entered the final ten minutes, Craggs fired in a shot that Tsapalos did well to hold, diving full length to his right. In the 82nd minute, the pressure finally told as Consett pulled a goal back with a terrific move as Mackay and Cornish played a neat one-two and Cornish raced into the penalty area before slotting the ball past Tsapalos. Three minutes later and RCA had a chance to win the match as Larkin played the ball out to Moan on the left side of the Consett penalty area. Moan fired in a high, goalbound shot that Hayes did well to tip over the crossbar. Barely a minute later and Consett were level - a long ball forward was only half cleared by the RCA defence and Mackay fired in a superb shot from 25 yards which nestled into the top corner, despite Tsapalos getting a hand to it.
A scrappy match - by general consensus - that failed to live up to its top-two, cracking match build-up, although there were some very good pieces of finishing from both sides for the goals.
RCA draw a league game for the first time this season, but remain second in the table, with 25 points from 14 matches played.
Consett attacked in numbers in the second half, putting RCA under considerable pressure, and did very well to fight back from two goals down, but RCA will certainly feel like this is two points dropped after leading 2-0 with less than ten minutes remaining.
Manager Martin Swales probably summed up all of RCA's feelings perfectly in one, short sentence when he turned to me, deep into stoppage time, and said “it feels like a defeat”.
Next up for RCA is a half-term treat as we take on Sunderland AFC in the Durham County Challenge Cup First Round at Meadow Park, this Tuesday, 23 October, with a 7:30pm kick-off. A cracking Sunderland derby cup-tie is in prospect - please come along and support the lads in this big match.