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Morpeth Town 3 Sunderland RCA 2

Submitted by Simon Mears on Thursday, 16 March 2017
Wednesday, 15 March 2017
Northern League 1

Luke Richardson shields the ball from former RCA favourite Joe Walton. Photograph: Simon Mears.

For more photos from the match please click here.

Goal scorers - Morpeth: Graydon (pen); Morris; Walton. RCA: Callen; Larkin (pen).

Sunderland RCA made the trip to current FA Vase holders Morpeth Town for this rearranged Northern League fixture. RCA are currently on a mini-unbeaten run of three matches - with a draw and two wins.

This season Morpeth have been formidable at home in the League - winning 14 of their 15 matches at Craik Park. Only South Shields have taken points courtesy of a 4-0 win.

RCA made one change to the side that won impressively at Bishop Auckland on Saturday. Recent signing Craig Hubbard was given a full debut after coming off the bench on Saturday, replacing Jonathan Davis in midfield.

The two sides lined up as follows:

Morpeth Town: Dryden; Forster; Novak; Sayer; Reid; Turner; Taylor; Graydon (c); Walton; Henderson; Morris.

RCA: Carmichael; Noble; McGuinness; Preston; Swansbury (c); Hodgson; Charlton; Hubbard; Butler; Larkin; Callen.

The match was barely two minutes old and RCA were forced into a substitution after Noble challenged for a high ball and landed awkwardly, twisting his ankle. After treatment, Noble was unable to continue and was replaced by Luke Richardson. The 11th minute brought the first effort by either side on goal - Taylor made a good run down the Morpeth left before playing the ball into Henderson who let fly from the edge of the penalty area, only to see his shot thunder against the crossbar and behind for a goal-kick. Seven minutes later and Hubbard made a run down the left and was fouled by Turner as he advanced towards the apex of the Morpeth penalty area. From the resulting free-kick, Larkin sent in a teasing cross and Callen rose, salmon-esque, to guide the ball perfectly into the bottom corner to give RCA a 19th minute lead. Six minutes later and RCA almost doubled their lead as a free-kick from Richardson was only half-cleared to the edge of the penalty area, where Hubbard hit a terrific shot that struck the crossbar and went behind for a goal-kick.

In the 27th minute the dangerous Taylor made a good run down the left before cutting in and firing a shot straight at Carmichael. One minute later and RCA had another great chance to double their lead as a quick free-kick put Larkin in on goal. RCA’s top-scorer went around Dryden but his shot was blocked by Turner with a superb last-ditch sliding challenge. On the half-hour mark Sayer made a run down the left but his cross was cleared by the head of Preston for a corner. From the corner the ball was half-cleared to the edge of the penalty area where Walton’s shot was comfortably saved by Carmichael. Two minutes later and Morris picked up the ball on the right before firing in a fierce shot that was turned around the post in style by Carmichael for a harmless corner.

With six minutes to half-time Graydon sprayed a lovely sweeping ball out to the left to Taylor, who made a dangerous run, cutting in from the left, but his shot was wide of the post. One minute later and Taylor again was in the action with a run and cross that was cleared by McGuinness for a corner - from the corner Carmichael claimed the ball with an excellent catch diving backwards under pressure. The chances kept on coming for the home side, and again the Graydon/Taylor combination worked effectively as Graydon found Taylor on the edge of the penalty area - Taylor twisted and turned, looking for a sight at goal, but his shot was saved by Carmichael. In first half stoppage time Morpeth grabbed an equaliser. For the umpteenth time in the half Taylor made a run down the left, surging into the penalty area where he was tripped by Richardson. The referee awarded a penalty. Graydon stepped up and made no mistake from the spot.

Half-time: Morpeth Town 1 Sunderland RCA 1

It was all to play for in the second half, and RCA got the first half chance when a cross from Callen was met by the head of Butler but was comfortably caught by Dryden. In the 59th minute Morpeth took the lead - Sayer made a run down the left and his cross was cleared by Swansbury for a throw-in. From the throw, the ball was again picked up by Sayer and he delivered a low cross along the six-yard line where Morris was on hand to finish at the far post. Five minutes later and it was 3-1. The influential Graydon picked up the ball in the centre of midfield before picking out Taylor - now operating on the right - with a magnificent 40-yard pass. Taylor then sent in a low cross which was fired into the net by Walton, leaving RCA with a mountain to climb.

With 20 minutes remaining RCA had a great chance to set up a grandstand finish as Larkin made a run down the left, going past Dryden, before squaring the ball to Butler, who took a touch and the ball was cleared. Morpeth restricted RCA to few chances in the next fifteen minutes until a free-kick from Richardson five minutes from time was cleared for a corner which, in turn, was cleared. One minute later and Taylor made a run down the left and into the penalty area before Hodgson won the ball with a terrific sliding challenge. RCA then went straight up the pitch and Larkin surged into the penalty area before being upended for a penalty. Just as he did at West Allotment, Larkin picked himself up and then calmly slotted the spot kick into the net via the base of the post. With a late lifeline, RCA then threw everything they had at Morpeth in the final few minutes - substitute Cassidy played the ball to Butler but his attempted cross was blocked. And then, in stoppage time, a free-kick from Carmichael on the halfway line was cleared by Dryden under pressure from Swansbury.

Although any defeat is disappointing, RCA can be pleased that they were in the match right up until the final whistle - unlike visits in previous seasons when we’ve been battered and out of the match before half-time. And, as the enigmatic Ghostly Gadgie has pointed out elsewhere, the FA Vase hangover has been far less severe than it was last season.

Next up for RCA is an important home match with Newton Aycliffe on Saturday - one of the clubs in our sights as we push for a top ten finish.