An overcast evening in Northallerton with a few showers knocking about for tonight's game, everyone hoping they hold off, and a decent crowd in, including a good few from Sunderland.
The teams lined up as follows:
Northallerton: T. Dawson; D. Hillerby, G. Shaw, S. Cheeseman, D. Jones; K. Hewitt, R. McKendry, A. Shepherd, J. Blackburn; C. Lowes, S. Hudson
Subs: N. Martin, J. Proctor, C. Smith, C. Short
Sundeerland RCA: R. Dean; M. Allen, L. Green, G. Swansbury, S. Lilley; R. Leonard, C. Hodgson, D. Elliott, D. Moan; M. Davison, N. O'Neill
Subs K. Davis, A. Croft, M. Charlton, H. Dorward, T. McAloon.
RCA gave a starting debut to Ryan Leonard after his impressive cameo on Saturday, one of a number of changes forced on RCA. Steve Callen, Ross McNab and Clayton Davis were missing through injury from Saturday’s team, with Ross Preston also still sidelined. With Lewis Green and Dom Moan also coming into the starting line up it was a very young looking RCA team that started the match.
Ref Leo Howard got the game underway, after an immaculately observed minute’s silence for Andy Curtis who served Northallerton for many years and will be sadly missed,. The game began in an open manner and at a quick pace with RCA attacking immediately and forcing a corner. Northallerton looked lively and pressed hard, O'Neill would have scored, but for a marginal offside, and a good save by Dean saved RCA after Dom Moan was robbed. Northallerton forced a couple of corners in the first ten minutes but found captain Swansbury in fine form and marshalling his young defensive partners well, while Robbie Dean started, as he went on all night, with top class handling and anticipation.
Northallerton were having most of the ball but every time Sunderland RCA got the chance and attacked they looked very dangerous, and the game came fully alive in a five minute spell of pressure which saw a good looking Mark Davison “goal” marked off for what must haven a marginal offside decision on thirteen minutes, followed on fifteen minutes by Dom Moan opening the scoring with a good finish after a driving run into the box from wide left, and on eighteen minutes young Ryan Leonard marking his full Northern League debut with a sharp finish to double RCA’s advantage. Five minutes later Craig Hodgson needed treatment for a knee knock, a sign of things to come. The game continued at the same pace with Northallerton not downhearted and giving their fans plenty to cheer, but always vulnerable to the swift RCA breaks. Robbie Dean made a couple of good saves and started RCA going every time he got the ball in hand. Greg Swansbury found himself loose in the area as a corner was blocked and his volley on the turn went narrowly over the bar.
On forty minutes Craig Hodgson went down with another, thankfully different but obviously painful knock, but this time was unable to continue, and Henry Dorward replaced him, lowering the average age of the team even further, to, by your correspondent’s best guess, around the twenty one year old mark. Even so the last five minutes before the half time break saw RCA well on top and pressing well.
HT Northallerton 0 Sunderland RCA 2
The second half started with Northallerton in the same determined mood as earlier and they pressed well with little reward until a penalty was awarded in the fifty second minute. RCA protests were muted and the Northallerton player put the penalty away well. Game on. The Northallerton pressure continued and in the fifty fourth minute Sam Lilley went into the book for a vigorous challenge. Robbie Dean continued in great form when he was needed, the pick being a fine save low down by his post. Still RCA broke regularly, but now the final ball was letting the lads down a little, with Northallerton usually breaking attacks up and returning to the offensive. A fifty seven minute free kick from Dylan Elliott was blocked by the wall and then blazed over. Both Nath O’Neill and Mark Davison worked hard up front and had a couple of half opportunities each without luck. On seventy minutes Michael Charlton came on to replace Dom Moan who had worked hard all game, and in the last quarter RCA managed to run down the clock quite well, defending deep and keeping the ball well when they got it. With five minutes of normal time Aaron Croft came on for Dylan Elliott who had prompted well in midfield, with Aaron then using his experience to try to play out time.
As the ninety minutes were up Sam Lilley went down with a nasty looking head injury, losing plenty of the old claret, and it took physio Scott Dickinson quite a while to fix him up. When he was back on his feet there were a few more minutes of nail biting for the RCA fans until finally the final whistle was blown.
Overall an excellent performance from RCA with the young lads all playing their part and looking very much at home in the Northern League First Division. Credit too for Northallerton who kept going in fine style and will think they should have got something from the game. The stars of the night though, in your correspondent’s unofficial though well respected opinion, were undoubtedly RCA’s Robbie Dean and Greg Swansbury: superb performances from both players, leading by example and encouragement. Very well done both.