Ashington was our next away trip up the A1 to play an inform team.
Further Covid problems meant that we were without Dean, Elliott, Callaghan, Griffith and Ward: while missing were Fairley, Hope and Davis adding to the problems was the fact that Errington and Agnew were recalled by their club.
Good news was that Swansbury and Preston were available as were Allen, and Best and all four started tonight.
RCA gave a debut in goal to recent signing Matthew Wilkinson.
The teams lined up as follows:
Ashington: McHugh, Kalthoeber, Gaffney, Emmerson, Coppen ©, Bramley, Taylor, Ross, Harmison, Briggs, Cowburn. Subs: Scott, Slater, Anderson, Cranston, Grant.
Sunderland RCA: Wilkinson, Allen, Carr, Preston, Swansbury ©, Hodgson ©, Leonard, Best, O’Neill, Watts, Callen.
Subs: Davison, Forster, Armstrong, Larkin, Davis.
The start of the match was delayed due to an injury to one of the assistant referees, the referee after consultation agreed to play the game with two officials.
RCA started well with Best winning the ball in midfield playing in Carr who sent the ball forward to O’Neill in space inside the penalty area and with only the keeper to beat he sliced over the bar.
Ashington responded with a driving run by Cowburn down the left his cross was met by Emmerson who beat the Wilkinson but the ball was cleared off the line.
RCA took the lead in the fifth minute when Best picked up the ball just inside Ashington’s half and ran at the home defence before drilling a low shot just inside the post from 20 yards out.
After this dramatic opening the match settled into a game where both defences seemed able to cope.
On the half hour Ashington got back into the game when Wilkinson produced an excellent save, tipping over the bar a Taylor dipping shot, from the resulting corner the ball was played to the back post where Harmiston managed to head the ball back over the outstretched hand of Wilkinson and into the net.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men when Watts was given a straight red for what looked like retaliation following a bit of shirt pulling.
After the dismissal Ashington started to play the ball about patiently trying to create an opening but the RCA defence to their credit remained resolute.
In the final minutes of the half RCA were unlucky not to take the lead when a Best corner to the near post was flicked inches wide of the upright.
The second half followed the pattern of the final 15 minutes of the first half with Ashington continuing their patient build up and RCA looking to counter attack.
While Ashington had most of the possession they were lacking in the final third and it was RCA who created the best chance when Carr picked up a loose pass, played it forward to Best whose reverse pass found O’Neill inside the area but the RCA forward scooped the ball over the bar.
The nearest Ashington came was five minutes later when, after some good build up play, the ball was played to Cowburn who curled a shot inches wide of the post.
RCA were reduced to nine men in the 61st when O’Neill reacted to a challenge by unceremoniously throwing his opponent to the ground giving the referee no option but to produce a red card.
The match effectively became a game of attack and defence and it took only three minutes for Ashington to make the two man advantage tell when Cowburn curled in a long range effort which dipped under the crossbar and into the net.
Cowburn then completed the scoring in the 80th minute with well worked move across the edge of the box with the ball played into his path and he drove the ball into the bottom corner giving Wilkinson no chance.
To make matters worse Allen limped off with a recurrence of the injury which has sidelined him for the last six weeks.
Ill discipline on and off the pitch cost us dear tonight, this was a game that we could have won, instead of which we have gifted Ashington three points.
Next up is Shildon in the FA Vase on Saturday, 10 October 2020. Kick off 3.00pm.
Remember this is an all ticket match.