RCA travelled to West Auckland Town’s Wanted Stadium for this Mitre Brooks Mileson League Cup last 16 fixture.
“Wanted” were 16 players, what RCA relied on was 12 players, two of whom were goalkeepers.
Picking the team was therefore fairly academic; picking the formation a little more time consuming.
The teams lined up as follows:
West Auckland Town: Flynn, Hegarty, Price, Harwood, Colquhoun, Dodds ©, Fisher, Mitchell, Purewal, Francis, A Bell. Subs: Greenwood, Connor, Hornsby, Hurworth, M Bell.
Sunderland RCA: Dean, Dorward, Allen, C Davis ©, Moan, Elliott, Green, O’Neill, Davison, Slack, Leonard. Subs: Ezard.
Another disappointing crowd in this League Cup match saw West start fairly brightly attacking down the slope.
However it was the visitors who had the first real chance. Slack was dragged to the ground by Harwood on the edge of the penalty area and when Elliott whipped in a cross it was met by Green at the far post, but headed wide.
Harwood had to leave the field shortly after this and was replaced by Greenwood.
RCA, playing on the break, were very effective and should have taken the lead when Dean sent a long ball forward down the middle. Slack jinked his way past two defenders and finding himself with only Flynn to beat dragged his shot wide.
West were stung into action and a good move between Dodds and Mitchell set A Bell up for a shot which Dean did well to hold.
When Slack was again fouled on the right Dorward took the free kick which he curled onto the head of Davison, but Flynn was able to make a spectacular diving save.
West started to get control of the midfield and seemed able to pass the ball a lot better than their counterparts. RCA for their part were quick on the counter and West had to guard against complacency.
Another free kick to RCA gave them another great chance to open the scoring, Elliott crossing to the far post where Davison managed to get his head to the ball but steered it narrowly wide of the upright.
At the other end Mitchell was set up by Purewal but shot wide of the target.
The home team was guilty of committing a number of fouls which resulted in giving free kicks away in dangerous areas. Elliot and O’Neill combined from one of these to send the ball into the box where Davison swiveled and fired in a shot which flew over the bar.
With 20 minutes gone a long ball forward by Hegarty caught the RCA defence napping as he burst through on goal only to be denied by a fingertip save from Dean.
Purewal was causing problems for the visitors and a minute later he had a great opportunity to score when he headed a Francis cross wide of an empty goal.
West were on the front foot and it wasn’t long before they opened the scoring. Dodds sent Bell away down the right and he cut the ball back from the bye-line into the path of Purewal who drove the ball into the net.
A difficult situation became much worse in the 29th minute when Mitchell burst into the penalty area and Davis’s challeng was deemed to be unfair and a penalty was awarded which Purewal converted, sending Dean the wrong way.
RCA were forced to defend in the final 15 minutes of the half as West pushed forward looking to completely kill the game off.
A rare break from RCA saw the ball played forward by Moan to Leonard who dribbled past two defenders before being fouled. Elliott’s cross into the box was headed just wide of the far post by Davison.
Despite some heroic defending by the RCA back four, Greenwood effectively killed the game off in the 42nd minute when he was allowed to run straight through the RCA midfield before drilling a low shot into the bottom corner of the net from 25 yards out.
RCA came out for the second half looking to get something out of the game, in the third minute of the second half Slack picked up a through ball from Allen, slipped his marker but was unable to get any power in his shot and it was cleared by Hegarty.
A minute later and Moan picked out Leonard on the left wing; he cut inside and fired in a shot which was saved by Flynn.
The home team, at the start of the second half, could not get their passing game together and it was RCA who were the most likely to score.
Slack was a thorn in the side of the West defence as he looked to get on the score sheet.
A long ball forward by Dean was headed forward by O’Neill, Slack pounced on the ball but sent his shot straight into the arms of Flynn.
A minute later and Flynn had to react quickly to smother the ball as Slack threatened again.
With no substitutes to provide fresh legs to the game RCA visibly tired but continued to threaten and it was only another great block by Flynn which prevented Slack from scoring in the 75th minute.
The home team reacted with a spate of substitutions and RCA were again forced to defend, a cross in from Mitchell was met by Fisher but his shot was blocked by C Davis and cleared up field by Green.
RCA's final effort saw Dorward played in by Davison, but from a promising position he elected to drive the ball into a packed goalmouth and the ball was cleared.
With RCA dead on their feet, Fisher was gifted an easy chance when the ball was crossed into the box but the West forward tried to flick the ball into the net and had to watch as it drifted agonizingly wide of the target.
The defeat to a strong West team was not a disgrace by any stretch of the imagination and the players and management can hold their heads high especially after the second half performance.
Personal comment: To the 12 players who turned up and played their part in this cup tie, to a man I commend and praise your efforts, at no point did you let the club or your teammates down and you fought for 90 minutes. To the three players injured, suspended and cup-tied, thank you for your support tonight and finally to the management team and supporters thank you for your efforts tonight they are appreciated.
Sometimes in defeat you can take some positives from the game and there were plenty on display in this match, every player put in a shift.
Next match is away to high-flying Shildon on Saturday, 1 February 2020, Kick off 3.00pm.