Sunderland RCA entertained Newton Aycliffe at Meadow Park for this EBAC Northern League Division 1 fixture.
The RCA management team made two changes to the team that beat Whickham on Tuesday night, K Davis replaced McAloon and Charlton replaced Larkin. There was also a welcome return to the bench for Preston who returns from injury.
Sunderland RCA: Patterson, Howard, Lavery, Hodgson, Swansbury ©, O’Neill, K Davis, Page, Moan, Davison, Charlton. Subs: McNab, Lilley, Croft, McAloon, Preston.
Newton Aycliffe: Pickford, Brown ©, Metz, Harrison, McNamara, Gavin, Wood, Carr, Hudson, Gash, Costello. Subs: Richardson, Matthews, Barnes, Ballam, Phelan.
Newton Aycliffe took advantage of the slope in the first half but it was the home team who had the first real chance of the game, a freekick 25 yards out was floated into the penalty area by O’Neill and although Swansbury sent a good header goalward Pickford was able to save fairly comfortably.
The opening exchanges were even with both teams playing through the midfield without really penetrating the opposition's defence.
RCA suffered an injury blow when Hodgson turned his ankle and was unable to continue, Preston, a little sooner than anticipated, was brought on to replace him.
Metz was causing a few early problems for RCA on the left and in the 12th minute he was fouled by Lavery, Metz took the freekick sending it to the back post where Gash brought the ball down but fired his shot into the side netting.
Both teams settled into the respective game plans which seemed to consist of sending high balls forward for defenders to head away, on the few occasions when the ball got past the defenders it was easily dealt with by the two goalkeepers.
It took until the 30th minute for there to be a meaningful shot on target. A quick throw in by Moan was flicked on by Davis to Davison on the edge of the box but his shot was well saved by Pickford.
Newton Aycliffe responded by pushing forward and forcing a corner, Wood swung the ball over from the left and Brown rose well but could only direct his header over the bar.
The home team forced their own corner 5 minutes later, Lavery sent in a low cross which was met by Moan but his volley was blocked by Harrison, the ball fell to Davison but his shot flew over the bar.
As the game drifted towards half time it was Aycliffe who were looking the more likely to break the deadlock, Costello picked up the ball on the half way line before passing to Harrison his cross into the box was met by Carr who forced a great save from Patterson at the expense of a corner.
The visitors forced three corners in quick succession as RCA defended in numbers. The third corner was met by Swansbury who set up a quick breakaway passing the ball to K. Davis on the halfway line and he ran into space before being fouled by Metz. The resulting freekick struck the wall and went for a corner.
The second half started very scrappily with neither team looking comfortable on the ball.
RCA again had the first chance of the half, a Lavery corner was headed across the six yard area by Davison but it was Brown the Aycliffe captain who reacted quickest to clear the danger.
The home team, were adopting a very direct approach to the game sending high balls into the oppositions penalty area where they were defended by a very resilient Aycliffe defence.
RCA made a tactical change pushing O’Neill into a more advanced role and it almost paid dividends when a K Davis corner was met by O’Neill but the tall striker's header went inches wide of the upright with the Aycliffe keeper well beaten.
In response Aycliffe broke quickly on the left, Costello squaring the ball to Carr but his shot, although well struck was miles off target.
This provoked a surging run from Page, picking up the ball from Patterson’s clearance he burst through three defender's tackles but the ball seemed to bobble as he shot and the final effort was scuffed inches wide of the post.
The game was becoming very reminiscent of the match at Moore Lane at the end of February, when the persistence of RCA eventually wore down the resilience of Newton Aycliffe.
RCA’s next chance came from a freekick taken by Davis, who sent a pass out to Lavery his cross was plucked out of the air by Pickford with Swansbury and O’Neill bearing down on him.
Aycliffe almost opened the scoring in the 82nd minute when substitute Matthews found space on the left to send in a wonderful cross which was met by another Aycliffe substitute, Richardson who looked odds on to score but he headed wide of the goal.
RCA continued to press forward in the hope that history would repeat itself and in the 92nd minute it did.
A ball down the left to Charlton saw him cut inside and pass to Davison who manged to find O’Neill in space inside the penalty area and he side footed a low shot into the bottom corner of the net giving Pickford no chance.
There was still time for Aycliffe to mount a final attack throwing caution to the wind and they forced a corner, the ball was swung into the box and headed away by Preston, whereupon the Referee blew for full time.
RCA are making a habit of scoring injury time goals with four in recent matches, this latest one moves us back up to fourth in the league.
Whilst there was little in the way of exhilerating or entertaining football on display today, it was a typical end of season grind out a result sort of match in which both teams played their part.
Next up for RCA is North Shields at home on Tuesday, 26th March 2019.