Sunderland RCA welcomed Stockton Town to the Sunderland LGV Stadium for this EBAC Northern League fixture.
Both sides were involved in FA Cup action at the weekend with Stockton Town coming out on top with a late winner against Billingham Town, while RCA were very impressive in their 2-0 victory over Thornaby at Teesdale Park.
RCA were forced to make changes as both Fairley and Carr were ruled out, into the team came the experienced Preston and Larkin with Watts the provider of both goals on Saturday replacing Dorward.
The teams lined up as follows:
Sunderland RCA: Dean, Forster, Callaghan, Preston, Swansbury (C), Hodgson, Leonard, Elliott, Larkin, Hope, Watts.
Subs: Best, Callen, Armstrong, Ward, Bell
Stockton Town: C.Roberts, King, McWilliams, Henry, D.Mulligan, Coulthard, Franks, Robinson (Portas 73’), Craggs (N.Mulligan 64’), Owens (M.Roberts 70’), Hayes.
Subs: Mulligan, M. Roberts, Risborough, Portas, Woodhouse.
After a cagey opening RCA had the first real chance of the game when Callaghan picked up a good ball from Elliott, cut inside a drilled a low shot straight at C Roberts in the Town goal.
Two minutes later and the visitors attacked through Franks his cross into the box was headed over the bar by Hayes
After a number of intercepted or over hit passes from RCA it was Larkin who created the next opening curling an effort over the bar from the edge of the box.
There was little between the two sides in the opening exchanges as they cancelled each other out man for man in midfield and both defences seemed to be coping easily.
With 20 minutes gone, Callaghan broke down the left and crossed to the far post where Larkin managed to volley the ball but C Roberts saved with his foot, the ball was only partially cleared to Elliott on the edge of the box but his shot was blocked by Robinson.
The game was starting to liven up now with Stockton pouring forward, Franks worked the ball in to Hayes who went down under the challenge and the referee pointed to the spot for a penalty.
Owens took responsibility firing his kick straight down the middle but Dean pulled off a great save and when the ball rebounded to Robinson he looked certain to score but Dean pulled off another superb reflex save to deny him.
As the game progressed it became very scrappy with a lot of niggly fouls and the referee was left with little option but to start dishing out cautions Hope and Forster for RCA and King for Stockton.
A free-kick Max Craggs was dipping under the bar but Dean managed to tip it over the bar. While at the other end an Elliott free kick was met by Forster but C Roberts made a good save to deny the RCA defender.
As the game drifted towards half time Swansbury found Leonard on the right wing, he controlled the ball well before spotting C Roberts was off his line and tried an audacious cross over the keepers head but it missed the target by inches to the relief of the Stockton keeper.
Stockton should have taken the lead in the final minutes of the half when Robinson played in Franks but the winger snatched at his shot and it flew over the bar.
With the advantage of the slope in the second half RCA took the game to Stockton and took an early lead when Elliott crossed the ball to Best, he in turn played the ball into the path of Watts on the edge of the area and he curled a delightful shot round Roberts and into the net.
Watts should have had a second a minute later when Larkin skipped past his marker, and crossed into the box but the Ex-Middlesborough youngster couldn’t get the ball from under his feet and C Roberts saved.
Just before the hour, RCA came close again when Larkin ghosted in and struck the post after Elliott’s threaded ball from a free-kick had found him in space, I thought the keeper had saved it but the referee gave a goal kick.
Stockton picked up the pace and were almost level when Robinson burst into the box but his shot went wide.
With Stockton in the ascendancy RCA weren’t able to kill the game off and pressure was mounting on the defence.
Leonard, Watts and Elliott were guilty of shooting wide when in good position.
It was a long final 15 minutes for the RCA defence as Stockton took command and poured players forward and it was only some magnificent defending that prevented the visitors from equalising.
A Hayes cross into the box found M Roberts in space but his effort hit the post and Dean was grateful to be able to grasp the ball before M Roberts could pounce again.
In the final throw of the dice King found Hayes in acres of space but his efforts was cleared off the line by Forster with Dean for the first time on the night beaten.
A spirited performance from RCA tonight, they could have wrapped it up early in the second half but credit to Stockton who came up against a very determined RCA team but more than played their part in a thrilling match.
RCA’s next opponents are Prescot Cables in the FA Cup on Tuesday, 22nd September 2020. Kick Off 7.45pm