Sunderland RCA: Robbie Dean; Ross McNab, Sam Lilley, Craig Hodgson, Clayton Davis; Michael Charlton, Triallist, Dom Moan, Thomas McAloon; Steve Callen, Kyle Davis. Subs Shaun Green, Triallist, Triallist
A lovely summer evening at Heaton Stannington, with the pitch looking superb and the bar selling real ale, what could be better? A good set up at Heaton Stan, and the team have performed consistently well in the second division in the last couple of years, so a good game and a good test expected. RCA were missing a few key bodies for various reasons, and the team sheet featured three triallists, one starting in midfield and two on the bench.
The game got off to a lively start and at a good pace, which to be fair, was maintained pretty much throughout. Both teams probed and had one or two openings before RCA took the lead with a super Steve Callen volley, as he maintained the good form he has shown in pre-season after his long lay off. A cracking goal. Heaton Stan were not downhearted though and continued to give as good as they got. They found a way back into the game with a penalty on 32 minutes when an RCA defender brought down a forward just after he had released a wild shot past the post. Robbie Dean got a good hand to the penalty, but couldn’t quite stop it looping into the net. All square and it remained that way up to the break, with the decent crowd enjoying the action. HT 1-1.
The second half opened at the same good level, with a couple of Heaton Stan’s young forwards showing good pace, while RCA looked to build controlled attacks and get Callen and Davis up top involved. On 52 minutes Heaton Stran took the lead as Robbie Dean made a rare mistake gifting possession, and the forwards capitalised, 2-1 to the home team. Heaton were buoyed by this and pushed on while the RCA bench got distracted by getting themselves agitated about the officials. Not helpful. It got worse for RCA a few minutes later when a corner was sliced into his own net by Dom Moan to make it Heaton Stan 3 RCA 1 on 57 minutes. A tough ask now. In fact the scoreline probably contributed to the game retaining its intensity as RCA pushed hard to get back into things while Heaton Stan defended well and broke fast when they could. A triallist came on for Michael Charlton soon after and showed up well, as had the triallist who started in midfield and who used his strength and height effectively throughout in a defensive midfield role. On 65 minutes RCA struck back with Callen again the scorer, this time with an excellent header from the edge of the box which flew past the keeper. Heaton Stan 3 - RCA 2.
Craig Hodgson suffered a knock in an unpleasant challenge and Dom Moan was substituted after the ref took a dim view of a tackle with the final triallist getting his chance. It was mostly all RCA as the game went into the last twenty minutes with Shaun Green coming on for Tom McAloon after 82 minutes. The pressure told with a couple of minutes to go when a very cool finish from the triallist who played the whole game brought RCA level. The lad did enough to ensure another look. A very good workout against a team with several players who looked like they could step up a level and have every chance of doing so with Heaton Stannington this season. Many thanks for the game and the hospitality, and good luck for the season.