No Larkin about: Colin Larkin - scorer of two first half goals for RCA - makes a driving run.
For more photos from the match please click here.
For North Shields' match report please click here.
Goal scorers - RCA: Larkin (2); O'Neill; McNab. North Shields: Holmes; McFarlane.
After two weeks without a match due to the postponement of last Saturday's fixture at Dunston, Sunderland RCA were back in action this afternoon, with third-placed North Shields the visitors to Meadow Park.
RCA made two changes to the side narrowly beaten at home by Whitley Bay a fortnight ago, with Colin Larkin and Clayton Davis replacing James Armstrong and Reece Noble.
The two sides lined up as follows:
RCA: Finch; Davis; McNab; Preston; Swansbury (c); Hodgson; Charlton; Page; O'Neill; Larkin; Callen.
North Shields: McCafferty; Robson; Summerly; Ormston; Pell (c); Dodds; McFarlane; Foster; Harmison; Richardson; Holmes.
The visitors got off to the perfect start, taking the lead with just 30 seconds on the clock as a back pass from Davis was intercepted by Harmison, who skipped past Finch and cut the ball back to Holmes who finished well with a sweeping left foot shot into the bottom corner of the net from eight yards. Seven minutes later and RCA were level as a ball was played into the Shields penalty area and the referee awarded a penalty for a hand ball. Larkin stepped up to dispatch the spot kick confidently in off the post to score RCA's first goal at Meadow Park since Ross Preston's first half header in the FA Vase defeat to Runcorn Linnets on 14 November. In the 16th minute Larkin made a good run through central midfield and fired in a fierce shot that was straight at McCafferty but it still needed strong hands behind it. Three minutes later and RCA won a free-kick for a foul on Charlton which was cleared. And a further three minutes on and RCA were awarded another free-kick on the halfway line, again for a foul on Charlton. Davis’ free-kick was cleared.
In the 25th minute, Larkin made a good run through central midfield before playing the ball out to Callen on the left who drove into the penalty area and along the byline but his shot from an acute angle was blocked and cleared. Six minutes later and RCA won a free-kick midway inside the Shields half. Davis delivered a good ball into the penalty area, where Page rose well with McCafferty and headed the ball wide at the far post. One minute later, though, and RCA took the lead with a superbly worked goal - the move was started by O'Neill charging down an attempted clearance on the left. O'Neill then played the ball back to Callen who, again, drove to the byline and picked out Page, who, with a first-time pass, squared the ball to Larkin, who finished well from 12 yards with one touch for his 13th goal of the season and the 60th of his RCA career. Great stuff, Larks!
RCA were now in the ascendancy and, barely one minute later, extended their lead - Callen made another good run down the left, forcing a corner. From the corner, the ball was cleared to Charlton, who fired in a fierce shot from all of 25 yards that O'Neill got a touch to, to leave McCafferty stranded. In the 38th minute, Shields reduced the deficit when a second penalty of the half was awarded - Holmes was released clean through and in on goal and drove into the RCA penalty area and was tripped by Finch who was booked. McFarlane slotted the penalty into the bottom corner, giving Finch no chance. With half-time approaching, RCA had a good chance to restore their two goal lead - Page and O'Neill combined well down the RCA right before the ball was played into Larkin on the edge of the six-yard area, who flicked the ball towards goal with a lovely backheel but McCafferty pulled off a terrific, reflex save as the ball looked to be heading for the bottom corner.
Half-time: Sunderland RCA 3 North Shields 2
Nine minutes into the second half and Shields had a great chance to level the match after a penalty was awarded for a trip on Harmison - McFarlane stepped up again to take the penalty kick but, on this occasion, went straight down the middle and Finch blocked and the loose ball was cleared. Six minutes later and O'Neill was released down the inside right channel but his shot was well saved by McCafferty, and, from the loose ball, Callen slid in at the far post to stab the ball narrowly wide. And then three minutes later, Page played O'Neill in again in a similar position and again McCafferty made the save. One minute later and Pell was shown a second yellow card for a foul. In the 68th minute, O'Neill was replaced by Dylan Elliott. Three minutes later and Larkin had a couple of good chances to complete his hat-trick - first, through on goal, Larkin fired in a cracking shot from just inside the penalty area that thundered the underside of the crossbar and bounced down just short of the goal line and was claimed by McCafferty. Then, one minute later, Davis crossed from the right and Larkin rose well to send a looping header towards the top corner but McCafferty pulled off a super save to get a hand to the ball at full stretch. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Shields were still very much in the match, forcing a couple of corners that were cleared. In the 87th minute RCA were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the Shields' penalty area after Charlton was upended. Before the free-kick was taken, James Armstrong replaced Luke Page. McNab drove the free-kick in low and the ball took a deflection off the wall and nestled into the bottom corner of the net for his first goal of the season. In stoppage time Jonathan Davis replaced Michael Charlton as RCA saw out the remaining minutes.
An eventful match, with six goals, eleven bookings (many of which seemed rather harsh for both sides), three penalties and three substitutions - plenty to keep RCA's new secretary busy. It won't be like this every week, Chris!
RCA remain in 8th position but move onto 47 points - just 10 short of last season's total of 57, with 13 matches still to play.
Today's win was RCA's first at home since the 2-1 victory over West Auckland Town on 7 November - although it must be said that the lads played very well in the defeats to Morpeth Town, Marske United and Whitley Bay but didn't take their chances.
This afternoon's RCA man of the match was chosen by Trevor Preston. Trevor picked Craig Hodgson for “protecting the back four well and making some important challenges”. Well played, Craig!
RCA are next in action on Tuesday week, 27 February, when we visit Whitley Bay. Kick-off is at 7:30pm.