Michael Charlton makes a run through midfield during the second half of the match.
For more photos from the match please click here.
For Connor Lamb's match report please click here.
Goal scorers - RCA: Page; Larkin; O'Neill.
Following Tuesday’s excellent win at Dunston UTS, Sunderland RCA made the trip to West Auckland Town, looking for a third win in a row.
RCA made one change to the side that won at Dunston - Scott Pocklington, signed on Friday from Bishop Auckland, made his debut in the RCA goal, replacing Keith Finch who had suffered a broken nose during last Saturday's match at home to Seaham Red Star.
The two sides lined up as follows:
West: Bland; Morris; Cobain; Francis; Parker; Colquhoun; Bell; Dodds; Fisher (c); Mitchell; Wearmouth.
RCA: Pocklington; Noble; McNab; Hodgson; Swansbury (c); Elliott; Charlton; Page; O'Neill; Larkin; Callen. Subs: Armstrong; McGuinness; Ashton; Parnaby; McEwan.
On a bitterly cold and wet afternoon, RCA got the match off to a red hot start - in the fifth minute, Callen played the ball out to Charlton on the RCA right, whose cross was headed by Larkin towards the top corner but Bland produced an excellent, diving save to tip the ball over the crossbar for a corner - from Elliott's corner, Swansbury had a header again tipped over the crossbar. From Elliott's subsequent corner, Callen headed the ball down in the six-yard area but it was cleared. Three minutes later and RCA had a great chance to take an early lead as Page made a driving run through central midfield before releasing Callen down the inside left channel, but Callen’s shot was dragged across goal and wide. And a further three minutes on and Callen made a good run down the left and to the byline, winning a corner. From Elliott's corner, Callen again won the header but was unlucky to see it cleared off the line. In the 18th minute, West had their first real sight at goal - a free-kick midway inside the RCA half was fired in by Mitchell and deflected behind for a corner which was claimed by Pocklington.
Midway through the first half, and Bell made a good run down the right, cutting in to the penalty area but McNab made a terrific sliding challenge to put the ball behind for a corner, just as Bell was about to pull the trigger. From the corner, Fisher headed the ball wide as the home side began to create chances. In the 26th minute, Elliott played a ball forward that was miscontrolled by Colquhoun, allowing Larkin to drive into the penalty area and square the ball to O'Neill, whose shot was blocked and cleared. On the half hour, Fisher made a good run into the RCA penalty area before firing in a shot that was beaten away by Pocklington. From the loose ball, Ball had a follow-up shot comfortably held by Pocklington. In the 41st minute, Fisher made another good run down the right, before cutting into the RCA penalty area and playing the ball back to Ball, who found Dodds, whose shot from 25 yards flew over the crossbar.
Half-time: West Auckland Town 0 Sunderland RCA 0
After a first half where both sides had chances to take the lead, it was RCA who broke the deadlock three minutes into the second half - Charlton made a good run down the right before playing the ball into Callen, who won a corner kick. Elliott delivered a super ball in that Callen headed into the body of Bland and Page was on hand to nod the loose ball home. In the 63rd minute, RCA were awarded a free-kick midway inside the West half after a foul on Charlton. Elliott's free-kick was goal bound but superbly tipped behind for a corner which was cleared. One minute later and Bland came to West’s rescue again - Noble delivered a good cross from the right and Larkin - all in one movement - chested the ball down before hitting a sweet half-volley from just inside the West penalty area that Bland brilliantly kept out at the second attempt.
Midway through the second half and West substitute Purewal made a driving run down the right before cutting in and firing a shot into the side-netting. In the 71st minute, Callen made a good run through central midfield before firing in a shot from all of 30 yards that had Bland scrambling to his right to save another goal bound effort from RCA. Two minutes later and good determination from O'Neill, chasing what looked like a lost cause to the West byline, won RCA a corner. From Elliott's corner the ball was half cleared to Charlton who fired in a fierce, low drive from the edge of the penalty area that flew just wide. In the 75th minute, Charlton was replaced by Kieran Parnaby. Three minutes later and RCA grabbed a deserved second goal - Larkin was released in on goal and advanced into the West penalty area before coolly slotting the ball low past Bland from around 12 yards. Larks has scored in each of RCA's last six matches, taking his total to 19 for the season. And five minutes later, RCA put the match beyond doubt with a third - a ball was played into Callen, who had made a good run into the West penalty area. His shot was parried by Bland and the loose ball was guided home by O'Neill to claim an impressive 25th goal of the season. In the 85th minute Luke Page was replaced by James Armstrong. Three minutes later, and Purewal drove into the RCA penalty area and fired in a fierce shot that was superbly tipped onto the post by Pocklington. In stoppage time RCA won a corner which was taken by Elliott and Callen’s header was cleared.
A tremendous win for RCA this afternoon, and, for what it's worth, my performance and result of the season so far (closely followed by Liversedge away in the FA Cup). And it was great to see a match played on a heavy, soggy pitch between two fully committed teams - although the West Auckland ground staff may disagree.
RCA remain in seventh place, but move on to 59 points and are now just three points behind today's opponents, who stay in fourth.
Today’s win also means that RCA have beaten last season's points total of 57, with eight matches to spare. Huge congratulations to Martin, his backroom team and all of the lads - under Martin, we have improved our league position and points total in each season. Our fantastic, well-run little club continues to punch above its weight magnificently.
Stat of the day: RCA are the first team to keep a clean sheet at West Auckland this season.
This afternoon's RCA man of the match was chosen by RCA goalkeeping coach, Carl Morris. Carl thought it was a tough choice today with four or five in with a shout, but picked Nathan O'Neill for his “nonstop running and hard work, rewarded with a goal”. Well played, Nathan!
Next up: RCA begin the first of three consecutive home games this Tuesday, 3 April, when Bishop Auckland are the visitors to Meadow Park for a 7:30pm kick-off. Please come along and support the lads.