Stockton Town: Roberts, Mulligan, Nicholson and Woodhouse.
Sunderland RCA: Elliott (pen) and Charlton
Sunderland RCA travelled to last season's FA Vase finalists Stockton Town in the EBAC Northern League clash.
Martin Swales and his management team were forced to make wholesale changes to the starting eleven due to injuries suspensions and player availability. Into the team came Armstrong, Lilley, Elliott, Kyle Davis and Tomas Howard who was making his debut after signing on work experience from Sunderland AFC in midweek.
The teams lined up as follows:
Stockton Town: Arthur; Robinson, Coulthard , Nicholson(c); Bulmer, Craggs, N Mulligan, Woodhouse, Risbrough; Roberts, Coleman.
Subs: Cossavella, Garbutt, Ward, Mohammed, Hayes.
Sunderland RCA: Tsapalos; Armstrong (McAloon 66'), Preston(c), Elliott, Howard; Lilley (79'), Hodgson, Moan; Charlton, O'Neill, Davis.
Subs: Larkin Pocklington, McAloon, McNab, Davis.
Stockton started the game on the front foot and looked to have taken the lead in five minutes when Woodhouse looked to have beaten Tsapalos to the ball and Craggs in open space fired the ball into an empty net. However the referee indicated a somewhat dubious foul on the keeper.
They did take the lead a minute later when Coulthard intercepted the ball on the edge of his own area before sending a long ball forward, Coleman outpaced the RCA defence before cutting the ball back to Roberts who fired past Tsapalos.
RCA responded. Moan won the ball on the half way line before sending a crossfield ball to Charlton whose dangerous low cross was cleared by Nicholson with O'Neill ready to pounce on any defensive mistake.
The hosts could have been two up a minute later when Craggs intercepted a pass before playing in Mulligan but Tsapalos managed to save easily. Mulligan was not to be denied and in the 14th minute he made it 2 -0 with a well placed low drive into the corner of the net from 22 yards out.
The battling qualities of RCA came to the fore as they fought to get a foothold in a game that was drifting away from them, they were rewarded with their persistence in the 17 minute when Charlton burst past his marker before crossing into the box where O'Neill was bundled to the ground by Coulthard and a penalty was awarded. Elliott stepped up and sent Arthur the wrong way to make it 2-1.
RCA were level on 23 minutes a clever throw out by Tsapalos was picked up by Elliott who struck a beautifully weighted 40 yard pass into the path of Charlton who, having beaten the offside trap, controlled the ball before smashing it into the net past a helpless Arthur in the Stockton goal.
As the game ebbed and flowed it lost some of its early sparkle and it wasn't until the half hour mark that either goal was threatened. Stockton won a corner which was taken by Craggs and found the head of coulthard but his header went wide of the target. This should have served as a warning to RCA.
In the 37th minute the home side regained the lead. A corner from the left was sent to the back post by Craggs where Nicholson was able to climb above his marker and power a header into the net.
Both teams struggled to get any momentum leading up to the half time whistle, but it was the home team who had the advantage, it was a matter of whether they would be able to hold on to it.
The answer to that question was discovered within 10 minutes of the restart. RCA started well with a quick fire start to the half, Charlton escaped his marker on the right before sending in a great cross to O'Neill who headed straight at Arthur from eight yards out.
The ball was cleared to the other end of the pitch where Roberts and Craggs combined before Roberts fired in a shot which Tsapalos tipped over the bar.
It was only a matter of time before the host increased their lead, but the manner in which they scored was disappointing from an RCA point of view, the ball was picked up to ball 25 yards out and took a pot shot at goal, Tsapalos looked to misjudge the ball and it crept inside the post to double Stockton's lead.
With the game again drifting away from them RCA tried to get something out of the game, on the hour mark a through ball from Elliott found Moan, who had moved to a more forward looking role since the introduction of McAloon, and the RCA youngster hit a terrific shot which forced an equally magnificent save from Arthur.
The resulting corner was cleared to the edge of the box where Elliot hit a first time shot over the bar.
Stockton were trying to control the game in midfield and this in turn restricted their own attacking threat, however in the 79 minute and shot from substitute Hayes stung Tsapalos' hands.
The introduction of Larkin in the 80th minute seemed to lift RCA and they moved forward with more purpose in the final ten minutes of the game.
A quickly taken corner caught the home side napping and the cross in from Howard fell invitingly to O'Neill but the tall forward sliced his shot wide.
Two minutes later O'Neill almost reduced the arrears when Larkin's cross into the box was headed back across goal by Davis to O'Neill whose header struck the bar, the rebound fell to the RCA striker who struck a rasping shot which was blocked on the line and cleared.
Although RCA continued to threaten in the final minutes O'Neill's effort was the last real effort on goal and Stockton ran out worthy winners on the day.
With so many changes to the starting eleven this was always going to be a tough ask for the RCA youngsters and although they played well in patches they never really got to grips with the plastic pitch.
Next game is on Wednesday, against today's opponents in the League Cup at Meadow Park.