Pocklington, Lilley, McNab, Hodgson, Preston (C), Clayton Davis, Dylan Elliott, Page, Moan, Larkin, Davison. Bench O'Neill, Kokoska, Limbo, Jonathan Davis, McGuinness.
Goals: Davison, Moan
Dryden, Marrs, Halliday, Stafford, Grant-Soulsby, Capewell, Thear, Pearson, Fitzpatrick, Heslop, Jack Elliott. Bench: Callum Elliott, Brookes, Hall, Nellis, Haley.
Goals: Heslop, Nellis, Stafford (pen)
Referee: Mr James Bancroft. Assistant referees: Mr Leonard Thurlow and Mr David Watson.
This was a cracking game between two good sides, clever inventive football, good strikes on goal, powerful challenges and top quality defending; and then a weird ending.
The game kicked off in a blustery wind and was immediately being played at a breathtaking pace. Dunston had the better of the early exchanges playing up the slope and into the breeze, which maybe allowed for more controlled football. The game was played mostly in midfield for the first quarter of an hour, and neither goalkeeper was seriously troubled. In the 16th minute a good move from RCA, as they finally got their passing together, ended with a super Colin Larkin strike which rattled the crossbar. Dunston responded with sustained pressure for a long period, and a number of corners and free kicks enabled them to get dangerous balls into the box, which were mostly dealt with confidently by RCA central defenders Craig Hodgson and Ross Preston and goalkeeper Scott Pocklington. As the half hour was reached RCA began to get more of a grip on the game with Clayton Davis looking dangerous running hard down the right and Dylan Elliott and Luke Page getting their foot on the ball and able to get better passes out wide and into their front men. In the 34th minute, though, Dunston might well have scored as a clever free kick from the corner of the box skimmed the cross bar.
RCA returned to the attack and should have taken the lead in the 37th minute as Mark Davison won the ball in the air and fed Colin Larkin who calmly directed a firm header agonisingly just wide of the post, when it looked a certain goal. As so often happens in these situations, from the goal kick Dunston made immediate progress and Scott Heslop ran onto a through ball, held off a challenge and finished very well past Pocklington. A fair reflection of the game up to that point.
Up to half time the teams exchanged periods of pressure, but the break came with no further goals and a chance for the decent and appreciative crowd to take a breather.
HT Sunderland RCA 0 Dunston UTS 1
The first half was good and the second was better. As with Dunston before half time, RCA looked more comfortable going uphill and began to play with confidence and cohesion as they looked for the leveller. Dunston remained potent when they got the chance with Liam Thear and Scott Heslop always threatening on the break. Dominic Moan, on his first start for RCA, was carrying the ball well and Luke Page was beginning to cause a lot of problems for Dunston breaking hard from deep. In the 64th minute RCA’s pressure paid off as Colin Larkin ran onto a pass out wide, crossed first time and saw Mark Davison rise in his trademark fashion and direct his header past the keeper. One all and game on.
RCA seemed to find a surge of energy from the equaliser and were going forward at every opportunity, while Dunston stayed calm and tried to play their football - an interesting clash of styles. Within ten minutes RCA took the lead for the first time in the game as Dom Moan slid in beautifully to convert a cross from the right. Anybody who thought that was that was mistaken as Dunston came back ferociously, put RCA under pressure and equalised on 80 minutes as sub Jordan Nellis equalised as the RCA keeper failed to deal with a shot and palmed it into his path.
It felt like that was it, with both sides settling for a draw, but another twist was to come. With a couple of minutes to play a long ball was collected easily by RCA keeper Pocklington, who was challenged hopefully by a Dunston forward, and inexplicably turned and kicked out at the Dunston player. Absolutely nuts. Stafford converted the penalty for Dunston, who took the points away. The only positive for RCA was to note the delight of the Dunston squad and officials and take heart from the obvious respect that exists in the Northern League for Sunderland RCA. Difficult to be positive, but we played well against a very good side. Dunston UTS will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season, will we be? No, unless we cure the indiscipline problem that has crippled us for the last few seasons.