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Sunderland RCA 3 Newcastle Benfield 1

Submitted by Simon Mears on Sunday, 8 April 2018
Saturday, 7 April 2018
Northern League 1

Craig Hodgson carries the ball out of defence during the second half of the match.

For more photos from the match please click here.

For Newcastle Benfield's match report please click here.

Goal scorers: RCA: O'Neill (3). Benfield: Orrell.

Two of the League's in-form sides met at Meadow Park this afternoon - Sunderland RCA were looking for a sixth win in seven, and a fourth in a row. Newcastle Benfield, meanwhile, are on a terrific run, winning their last six and nine of their last ten.

RCA made one change to the side that won impressively at West Auckland last Saturday, with Keith Finch returning in goal in place of Scott Pocklington.

The two sides lined up as follows:

RCA: Finch; Noble; McNab; Hodgson; Swansbury (c); Elliott; Charlton; Page; O'Neill; Larkin; Callen. Subs: Armstrong; McEwan; McGuinness; Preston; Parnaby.

Benfield: Grainger; Evans; Martin; Forbes; Pendlebury; Turnbull (c); Orrell; McEvoy; Brayson; Devlin; Scott.

As early as the third minute, RCA had a great chance to open the scoring as Elliott played a good ball forward to Larkin. As Larkin controlled the ball, Grainger came rushing out of his penalty area and Larkin dinked the ball past the now stranded goalkeeper, before firing in a shot from the edge of the penalty area into the top of the side-netting. One minute later and Benfield took the lead. After working the ball from right to left, Brayson delivered a terrific cross into the RCA six-yard area where Orrell finished well with a powerful header into the far corner. Two minutes later and a misplaced pass from Elliott allowed Orrell to race through the RCA midfield and into the penalty area, but Elliott had chased back well to block the shot and the loose ball was cleared. In the eighth minute, Larkin played a good ball upto Callen, who turned well and was tripped by Evans right on the edge of the Benfield penalty area. Elliott's free-kick produced a super save from Grainger, diving low to his left. Six minutes later and Page did well in central midfield, turning and making a run forward before playing the ball out to Charlton, who was fouled midway inside the Benfield half. From Elliott's free-kick, O'Neill headed the ball wide as RCA began to press for an equaliser. In the 20th minute, Orrell turned neatly on the edge of the RCA penalty area and fired in a low shot that was well saved by Finch, diving to his right. One minute later and Larkin played Charlton in on goal but his shot from an angle inside the Benfield penalty area flew high over the crossbar. And three minutes later, Larkin and Charlton combined well again down the RCA right, this time with Charlton crossing low and Page firing a shot from eight yards inches wide of the front post.

The chances kept coming for RCA and, in the 27th minute, Noble played a good ball to O'Neill, who forced a corner. From Elliott's corner, O'Neill headed narrowly wide from seven yards. Seven minutes later and Charlton and Noble combined well down the right, before Noble delivered a good cross that was headed wide by Callen. In the 42nd minute, a long ball was played up to Callen, who controlled well before playing a ball inside to Elliott, whose shot from 25 yards was wide. Two minutes later and Scott made a driving run down the left before cutting in and delivering a dangerous cross that was cleared with a good interception from Swansbury. With half-time approaching, Callen fired in two efforts from 25 yards both of which flashed narrowly wide, one of which looked to have grazed the post. And in stoppage time, RCA won a corner that Elliott whipped into the far post where Callen headed the ball back towards goal and Grainger claimed under pressure from Hodgson.

Half-time: Sunderland RCA 0 Newcastle Benfield 1

For most of the second half your correspondent stood chatting to a canny set of lads from Benfield, who were, ultimately, magnanimous in defeat. One thing we did speak about at length, though, was the fact that the two sides we were watching represent the second highest-ranked clubs in Sunderland and Newcastle respectively, and yet neither seems able to attract a crowd of much more than one hundred - and that's despite both clubs having a great season on limited resources. Both teams deserve to play in front of crowds ten times the size they do, instead of only being watched by a small number of football connoisseurs, who recognise that there is more to footballing life in our two big cities than the professional game (later, it was announced that the attendance was 91. Enough said).

The second half began as the first had finished, with RCA on the attack. One minute in and RCA won a free-kick on the halfway line for a foul on Elliott. Elliott took the free-kick himself, which was flicked on by Swansbury and headed narrowly wide by Page. Three minutes later and RCA were level - Noble delivered a great cross from the right and O'Neill finished well, heading the ball into the net from close range. In the 57th minute, Elliott did well in midfield, before playing in Callen, who made a driving run down the left, cutting in and forcing a harmless corner. Six minutes later and the visitors were awarded a free-kick which was whipped in by Orrell and headed clear by Swansbury.

In the 65th minute, RCA took the lead - a seemingly harmless back pass was sliced by Grainger and the ball was picked up by O'Neill on the edge of the Benfield penalty area, and RCA's top goal scorer fired in a shot that hit the post and went in at the opposite corner. A clinical finish. And two minutes later RCA extended the lead, with O'Neill claiming his hat-trick. RCA won a corner that Elliott delivered into the Benfield penalty area, and O'Neill flicked the ball into the net with a superb, looping back-heel to record RCA's first player hat-trick of the season. In the 72nd minute, Brayson made a good run down the left before crossing into the RCA penalty area, where Turnbull headed wide. In the 80th minute, Dylan Elliott was replaced by James Armstrong. Three minutes later and Michael Charlton was replaced by Reece McEwan. And one minute later, RCA made their final substitution, with hat-trick hero Nathan O'Neill being replaced by Kieron Parnaby as RCA saw out the final minutes to claim a hugely impressive fourth win a row.

Another fantastic result and performance from RCA this afternoon against another top team who were on a great run.

This afternoon's win means RCA move up to sixth in the table, level on points with Shildon and West Auckland, and just two points behind Consett in third place. Wherever we finish up, this has been a great season. But to equal the fourth-place finish of the 2011/12 season would be brilliant. There is still plenty to play for in these final seven matches.

This afternoon's RCA man of the match was chosen by Karen Davis. Karen picked Nathan O'Neill for his superb hat-trick. Well played, Nathan!

A busy week ahead for RCA, weather permitting, of course. On Tuesday, 10 April, we are at home to Jarrow Roofing, with a 7:30pm kick-off. Then, 48 hours later, on Thursday, 12 April, we travel to Morpeth Town, kick-off again is at 7:30pm.