Mark Davison scores the winner for RCA from the penalty spot.
For more photos from the match please click here.
Goal scorers - West Auckland Town: Price. Sunderland RCA: Charlton; Davison.
The relatively short journey from Silksworth to West Auckland Town is one of my favourites of the season - a ground that is as quaint as it is quirky, with pleasant views over the County Durham countryside, proper floodlight pylons in all four corners, and a remarkably uneven pitch all adding up to a memorable experience, as day gradually turned to night, and the lights began to take effect. Sunderland RCA, meanwhile, were looking to emulate last season's emphatic 3-0 victory and continue to climb the league table.
RCA made three changes to the side which lost the second epic encounter with Clitheroe last Tuesday - Ross Preston returned in place of the suspended Craig Hodgson, Jordan Watson replaced John Jury, and Colin Larkin returned up front in place of Jonathan Davis, with Nathan O'Neill moving into central midfield.
The two sides lined up as follows:
West Auckland Town: Bland; Hegarty; Price; Snaith; Colquhoun; Cobain; Mitchell; Portas; Fisher (c); Purewal; Dodds.
Sunderland RCA: Pocklington; Lilley; Watson; Preston; Swansbury (c); O'Neill; Charlton; Page; Davison; Larkin; Moan. Subs: Jury; Clayton Davis; Ramshaw; Armstrong; McNab.
The first noteworthy attack of the match, in the tenth minute, resulted in the home side taking the lead - the ball was played out to the right from central midfield to Mitchell, who drove towards the byline, before delivering a low cross across the six-yard area where Price was presented with a tap-in at the far post. Two minutes later and RCA won a corner after good, determined play by Page. Moan's corner was headed clear. West immediately launched a counterattack, as Purewal made a driving run through central midfield and towards the RCA byline, before winning a corner which was headed clear by Watson.
In the 21st minute, RCA were forced into a first substitution as Dominic Moan was replaced by Alex Ramshaw. One minute later and a ball was played into the West penalty area and, as the ball dropped, O'Neill was manhandled to the ground as he shaped to shoot, but the referee waved away strong appeals for what looked like a certain penalty kick. With half-time approaching, Price delivered a good ball in from the left which was headed behind for a corner by Watson and the corner was cleared by Swansbury.
A couple of minutes later and a long ball forward was superbly controlled by Purewal, who then played the ball out to Price on the left, whose cross was again headed behind by Watson for a corner. From the corner, Purewal rose well and headed the ball down and towards goal but Larkin was on hand to thump the ball clear.
A half where clear cut chances were at an absolute premium, West converting their best chance and RCA failing to register a single attempt on goal, but still very much in the match.
Half-time: West Auckland Town 1 Sunderland RCA 0
During the interval, RCA were forced into a second substitution after captain Greg Swanbury suffered a concussion in the first half, and was replaced by John Jury. I'm reliably informed by RCA assistant manager, Mark Cowan, that Greg has a sore jaw but is otherwise fine, which is good news.
In the 51st minute, West worked the ball well through midfield before the ball was played out to Mitchell, who fired a shot narrowly wide and across Pocklington from the right apex of the RCA penalty area. Four minutes later and RCA were back in the match after Davison played the ball in low from the right to Charlton at the front post. Charlton, back to goal, took a touch before turning smartly and beating Bland at his near post with a precise finish.
RCA were now in the ascendancy and, in the 64th minute, O'Neill fired in a shot which was blocked, and Ramshaw crossed the loose ball, which was headed up in the air and, as the ball came down, Bland attempted to punch the ball clear but it skimmed off his glove and into the net, but the referee ruled out the goal for a foul on the ‘keeper, amid loud protests from the RCA bench.
Six minutes later, though, and RCA did indeed take the lead - O'Neill split the West defence and Larkin nipped in ahead of Bland, who flattened the RCA forward with a fractionally late challenge and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Davison stepped up to confidently slot the ball home (see report photo above). Five minutes later and Purewal fired a shot over the crossbar from the edge of the RCA penalty area.
Seconds later, and with West pressing for an equaliser, RCA broke well as a ball was played out of defence to Larkin on the left, who ran from the halfway line to the edge of the West penalty area, before playing Page, who fired his shot into the side netting from a tight angle. In the final minutes of the match, Pocklington came to RCA's rescue with a good save from Mitchell, as RCA headed to the corners of the pitch as often as possible to successfully run the clock down.
A terrific comeback from RCA tonight to win the match in the second half against a side that will be at, or near, the top of the league come the end of the season.
RCA move up to seventh place in the table, with 12 points from seven matches played.
Next up for RCA is a trip to Newcastle Benfield this Saturday, 15 September, with a 3pm kick-off.