High fives: Nathan O'Neill celebrates scoring a powerful header with Stephen Callen for RCA's equaliser.
For more photos from the match please click here.
For Dunston's match report with video link please click here.
Goal scorers - Dunston: Hall. RCA: O'Neill; Larkin.
Following Saturday's good win at home to Seaham Red Star, Sunderland RCA were back in action tonight, making the trip to Dunston UTS.
RCA made one change to the side that beat Seaham at the weekend - Ross Preston was replaced by Luke Page, who returned to central midfield, with Craig Hodgson slotting in at centre half alongside captain Greg Swansbury.
The two sides lined up as follows:
Dunston: Harrison; Marrs; Halliday; Stafford; Pollock; Hall; Pearson; Burrell (c); Fitzpatrick; Heslop; Liam Thear.
RCA: Finch; Noble; McNab; Hodgson; Swansbury (c); Elliott; Charlton; Page; O'Neill; Larkin; Callen.
RCA got the match off to a positive start and, as early as the second minute, Larkin was put through on goal, lobbing the ball over Harrison and off the face of the crossbar, but the flag was up for a tight offside decision. And a minute or so later, Charlton headed the ball home, but again, the flag was up for offside. Two minutes later and McNab and Callen combined well down the RCA left, before Callen cut in and crossed to O'Neill and the ball was half cleared to the edge of the penalty area, where Page had a fierce shot blocked and cleared. And two minutes further on and Dunston had their first real attempt at goal as Fitzpatrick made a good run into the RCA penalty area and, as the angle narrowed, fired in a shot that was well blocked by Hodgson for a corner which was cleared. After being under pressure in the opening minutes, the home side were getting back into the match and took the lead in the 15th minute -Dunston won a corner kick, and from it, Hall headed the ball home from close range. Three minutes later and RCA had a chance to quickly level the scores as Elliott, in central midfield, played the ball out to McNab on the left. McNab played the ball down the line to Larkin, whose cross was half cleared and Page fired in a shot from just inside the Dunston penalty area that flew narrowly wide of the post.
In the 28th minute, Thear fired in a shot from the edge of the penalty area that was comfortably dealt with by Finch. And seven minutes later, Thear again drove through central midfield before firing in a low shot from the left apex of the RCA penalty area, which again was saved by Finch, diving to his left. One minute later and back came RCA - Charlton made a driving run down the right wing, cutting in and continuing his run along the Dunston byline, slipping past two defenders, before dinking the ball into the six-yard area, where O'Neill’s shot was blocked and Page fired the loose ball inches wide of the post. In the 42nd minute, RCA equalised - Larkin, in central midfield, played the ball out to Noble, who advanced forward before whipping in a superb cross and O'Neill powered in a header from six yards into the corner of the net.
Half-time: Dunston UTS 1 Sunderland RCA 1
It took RCA just three minutes of the restart to take the lead for the first time in the match, and what a goal it was - Charlton delivered a good ball in from the right and Larkin, on the edge of the Dunston penalty area, swivelled and fired in a half-volley with his “weaker” left foot that flew into the top corner of the net. Brilliant, brilliant stuff! In the 58th minute, RCA launched a slick counterattack as Larkin broke down the left before delivering a low cross which was cleared for a corner - from Elliott's corner, Callen headed the ball over the crossbar at the far post. Five minutes later and Dunston were awarded a free-kick which was taken by Pearson and cleared by Swansbury. Dunston then won a succession of corners as they pressed hard for an equaliser. In the 70th minute, a Dunston corner was headed off the line by Hodgson. Three minutes later and another Dunston corner was half cleared to Hall, whose shot was blocked by Finch.
Eight minutes later and Dunston were awarded a penalty after a corner kick was headed towards goal and Page was penalised for a handball. The penalty was well-struck but Finch guessed right and produced a terrific save, diving to his right to turn the ball around the post for a corner. In the 88th minute Nathan O'Neill was replaced by James Armstrong. With Dunston piling on the pressure as we headed into seven minutes of stoppage time, Finch produced a super point blank save and there were numerous balls into the RCA penalty area that were cleared with Swansbury heading clear on a couple of occasions. With Dunston committing men forward, it left RCA open to counterattack and, deep into stoppage time, Callen made a terrific 40-yard run through central midfield, skipping a couple of challenges, before playing in Page, who, in turn, played in Armstrong, who fired a shot into the side netting from a tight angle. In the final seconds, Larkin took the ball into the far corner to run the clock down and see the game out.
A terrific victory for RCA tonight - Dunston, however, will probably feel they deserved something from the match for all their possession and chances. But RCA have been on the receiving end of similar matches this season, most notably at home to Marske United and Whitley Bay where, despite dominating for long periods, the ball just wouldn't go in the net and we were left empty handed and ruing missed chances. Maybe these things really do even themselves out over the course of the season!
The UTS Stadium has proved to be a happy hunting ground for RCA in the last two seasons, winning tonight, as well as winning the league fixture and an epic FA Vase tie last season.
RCA remain seventh in the table but are now just two points behind sixth-placed North Shields and three points behind Shildon in fifth - all having played 33 games.
Without wanting to tempt fate, but RCA will surely claim at least two more points in the final nine games to eclipse last season's points total of 57 and record a new second best ever season in the Northern League, which would be a fantastic achievement in such a tough division.
Tonight's RCA man of the match was chosen by Tony Callen. Tony picked Greg Swansbury for “an immense performance, particularly in the second half, and leading the team well”. Well played, Greg!
RCA are back on the road this Saturday, 31 March, when we travel to fourth-placed West Auckland Town. Kick-off is at 3pm. It promises to be a cracking match - see you there!