Alex Ramshaw readies himself to shoot late in the second half of the match.
Sunderland RCA: Tsapalos; Lilley, Swansbury, Preston, McNab; C. Davis, Elliott, Page, Ramshaw; O’Neill, Moan. Subs Armstrong, K. Davis, Robinson, Richardson, Kokoska
Hebburn Town: Hubery; Groves, Wallace, Kerr, Storey; Tumilty, Fairley, Stephenson, Dibb-Fuller; Armstrong, Richardson. Subs Spence, Jennison (GK), Sullivan, Gilhespy, Shaw
This looked like a real good game in prospect, as the resurgent Hebburn Town, just off the top of the table at this early stage in their first season back in the First Division, came to Meadow Park to meet an in form, but still a bit disrupted RCA, who had secured two top notch away wins in the last ten days. RCA went into the fixture with Craig Hodgson serving the last game of his suspension, Michael Charlton missing with a injury picked up last week, Mark Davison, Scott Pocklington, Jonny Davis and John Jury unavailable, and Steve Callen now looking like a long term absentee with his stomach muscle problem. On the positive side, Nathan O’Neill, Dylan Elliott, and James Armstrong were back and available as was young Sam Robinson and new signings Kyle Davis and goalkeeper Dimitrios Tsapalos. So a number of changes in the team and on the bench were to be expected, and RCA fans were entitled to be a little nervous as to how things would work out, on a beautiful day in sunny Ryhope.
Hebburn had brought an excellent contingent of supporters who were in good voice and obviously hopeful as the game started with RCA kicking down the slope. For RCA Dimi Tsapalos made his debut in goal, Sam Lilley came back at right back with Clayton Davis moving forward to replace Michael Charlton wide right, Dylan Elliott came in for John Jury in midfield and Nathan O’Neill replaced Sparky Davison at centre forward. Not many in attendance would have predicted how the game would go.
The match started at a frantic pace and with RCA soon looking the likelier to score, with Nathan O’Neill winning a lot of ball in the air and the midfield four well on top of their opponents. The breakthrough came in ten minutes as Nath O’Neill finished well to give RCA an early lead. It got better very quickly. On fifteen minutes a terrible defensive blunder allowed Dom Moan to continue his goalscoring run with a tap in, and two minutes later Clayton Davis spotted the keeper off his line and from forty yards wide right scored with a stunning lob which the Hebburn keeper was never going to reach. Seventeen minutes gone and three nil up in a game we had all thought would be a tight affair. The Hebburn team looked shell-shocked and their fans were distinctly disappointed. For the rest of the first half Hebburn tried to lift their game but were clearly out of sorts and it was RCA who looked likely to score again. Clayton Davis limped off after thirty four minutes with Kyle Davis coming on for his debut, and quickly settling into the match. Defensively Hebburn caused few problems for Swansbury and Co and new keeper Dimi Tsapalos looked highly competent when he was called into action, which to be honest was not too often.
HT Sunderland RCA 3 Hebburn Town 0.
The second half was, probably inevitably, a bit of an anti climax. The game got a bit tetchy as it settled into a midfield battle with RCA happy to hold their lead and Hebburn unable to push on hard enough to cause too many problems. Tsapalos continued to impress with his sure handling and excellent distribution when he got the ball and from a long time out it was clear that the game was only going to finish with one result. On the hour mark a typical piece of play from Luke Page brought the fourth goal. He won the ball in midfield and set off on a run. The ball was played wide through a couple of passes and then delivered low and hard from the right and who was there to finish it off? Luke Page of course. First class. James Armstrong got fifteen minutes of playing time giving Page a breather. Luke came off and immediately replaced Gee in charge of the crèche, where his two children, although very well behaved, had been giving Gee a few headaches.
On seventy nine minutes Sam Robinson got into the action for Alex Ramshaw and was one of four RCA bookings, which didn’t reflect the match in reality.
A comprehensive win for RCA and maybe a wake up call for Hebburn, who to be fair will have been disappointed with their performance, and can surely do better. They will hope it was just one of those days. Five wins on the bounce for RCA, and against some top teams, and rarely with anything like a full squad to pick from. Good stuff for the Meadow Park hard core. More to come?