The team travelled down the A19 for the second visit of the season to Teesdale Park, the previous visit being in the FA Cup when RCA came away with a 2-0 victory.
Events off the field had a dramatic effect on team selection for this fixture with players self isolating, suspensions and injuries causing major disruption to the plans. The management team worked extremely hard to even get a team on the pitch with the last minute signing of Manager Martin Swales to make sure that the club had at least the bare eleven. Some players then being asked to play when not fully fit.
The teams lined up as follows:
Thornaby: Konstantopoulos, Roddam, Flounders, Johnson, Frazer, Poole, Beddon, Kenny, Hutchinson, Hopson ©, Rye. Subs: J Davis, Foley, Bulmer, McGuckin, Walton.
Sunderland RCA: Dean, C Davis, Callaghan, Forster, Swansbury ©, Best, Leonard, Larkin, Fairley, Callen. Subs: Bell, Swales.
A mild night after a turbulent day greeted the two teams onto the pitch.
The home team started well with Hutchinson picking up a loose pass by Fairley before taking the ball forward and shooting well wide of the target.
The lively Hutchinson was at it again two minutes later when he intercepted a pass on the half way line and was allowed to run unopposed into the RCA penalty area, fortunately for RCA his chip toward the far corner was able to be clawed away by Dean.
RCA picked up the tempo of the game from then on and a flowing move saw some brilliant interplay between Callen and Callaghan on the left before Callen’s cross was headed away by Poole only as far as Fairley, his cross was cleared to Elliott who fired over.
A lovely cross field ball from Fairley picked out Larkin who in full flight sent in a low driven shot past Konstantopoulos but just wide of the far post.
Fairley was causing problems with his jinxy runs and dribbles and he almost opened the scoring in the 16 minute with a curling shot which went wide.
Thornaby were trying to play out from the back but the constant pressure applied by RCA was forcing them to pump the ball forward where Swansbury and Forster were more than capable dealing with any potential threat.
With 20 minutes gone RCA had a strong appeal for a penalty when a through ball from C Davis was flicked on by Larkin into the path of Callen who looked to be pulled back in the act of shooting and the ball fell into Konstantopoulos’ arms.
RCA were in almost total control and looked the more likely to score Leonard on the right was causing problems for the Home defence and on the left both Callen and Callaghan were making life difficult for the home defence.
On the half hour RCA should have taken the lead when a great ball from Callaghan released Best inside the area and only the fingertips of Konstantopoulos saved the day as the ball struck the post, Best picked up the rebound and smashed another shot against the post and out for a goalkick.
A corner by Elliott was met by Callen but his header was straight at Konstantopoulos who made the save look easy, then a low shot from C Davis flew just wide of the upright.
A loose ball in midfield was picked up by Flounders who played the ball forward to Hutchinson he laid the ball off to Hopson but his shot was blocked by Forster.
Totally against the run of play Thornaby took the lead in the 38 minute when a quickly taken free kick was played to Hopson he in turn played the ball in to Rye who fired home.
RCA almost replied straight from the kick off with the ball switched out to the left for Callaghan, he played the ball forward to Larkin who held it up before laying it off to Callen but his shot zipped just over the bar.
Disaster struck in the 43 minute when Thornaby were awarded a penalty for a tackle inside the box which looked far worse than it actually was.
Hopson stepped up and fired the ball just past the outstretched hand of Dean.
The start of the second half saw the visitors pressing forward again and a good move between Elliott and Fairley saw the latter’s shot drift wide of the post.
Then a subtle little through ball from Swansbury played in Best but his effort dipped over the bar.
A quickly taken free kick by Elliott released Best who cut back before flicking the ball over Konstantopoulos in the Thornaby goal but Flounders managed to head off the line.
The game settled a little with neither team creating any chances until the 65 minute when a good ball from C Davis split the Thornaby defence and Leonard raced into space before blasting his shot over the bar, a minute later and Best played the ball into the path of Fairley who chose to shoot at goal when Larkin was free six yards out with the goal at his mercy.
On 70 minute Fairley was fouled on the edge of the box, Elliot floated the freekick to the far post but Callen was unable to get a touch on the ball and it drifted past the post.
A poor goal kick was picked up by Leonard but he fired his shot straight back into Konstantopoulos hands.
As RCA poured forward they were leaving gaps in their defence and Thornaby looked to take advantage, a good move between Foley and Hopson played Hutchinson in and Dean was forced to make only his second save of the game.
A minute later and a late challenge by Hutchinson on Dean went unpunished.
As the game became a bit scrappy it took a piece of genius from Fairley to reduce the arrears, latching on to a cross field ball he clipped the ball with the outside of his foot and it curled round Konstantopoulos to nestle in the net and set up a grandstand finish.
Swansbury was sent forward to add more height to the forward line and caution was thrown to the wind in a frantic final 10 minute but try as they might they were unable to find a way through the stubborn resistance of Thornaby’s defence who held out for victory.
There are times when you have to stand up and applaud the resolve and character of the players and the management team and tonight was one of those occasions. To a man they gave 100% and how they didn’t come away with all three points is beyond me, 80%-90% possession numerous chances, hit the post and the bar and a penalty appeal waved away; it beggars belief.
If we keep up with these performances on the pitch then it will not be long before we start to climb the league again.