The Covid-19 pandemic has meant an enforced lay off for the team. Our first match since narrowly losing at Consett on the 31 October 2020 saw us up against High flying Wearside League leaders Boldon CA in the Durham Challenge Cup.
A much changed team from the one that faced Consett with six changes to the squad.
The teams lined up as follows:
Sunderland RCA: Dean, Burlace, Allen, Preston, Swansbury ©, Best, Leonard, Elliott, Larkin, Milburn, Carr. Subs: Fairley, Errington, Forster, Dorward, Armstrong.
Boldon CA: Hunter, Nolan, Bell, Attewell, Graham © Williams, McBeth, Wright, Wightman, Collins, Hutchinson. Subs: Strong, Lowe, Gray, Hoey, Graham.
The heavy and persistent rain of recent days had taken its toll on the pitch which, although it looked good, was very soft in places. A testament once again to the ground staff who have worked wonders in preparing the pitch.
Despite not having played for so long, or indeed because of that fact, both teams stated their early intent to attack at every opportunity.
Boldon with the advantage of the slope had the first real chance when Bell intercepted a pass before playing the ball forward to Collins but his hasty shot went well wide.
RCA’s first attack saw Leonard on the right skate past his marker before cutting into the box but his cross was too heavy and Nolan cleared up field.
The home team took the lead in the 10 minute when Best played the ball out wide to Milburn who had time to control the ball, look up and send a pinpoint cross onto the head of Larkin and he headed the ball past the despairing dive of Hunter into the top corner.
Larkin almost made it two a minute later when a poor clearance fell to him on the edge of the 18 yard area but his driven half volley skimmed over the crossbar.
At the other end a break by Bell on the left almost earned Boldon an equaliser, his cross into the box was headed straight for Wightman but Dean spotted the danger and moved smartly to cut out the cross.
Two minutes later and Wright looked to be in with a chance as he broke past the RCA defence but looked to slip and fell heavily and the ball ran through to Dean. Wright, obviously in pain was substituted immediately.
The next RCA move saw Allen win the ball and play it forward to Milburn who dribbled past two defenders before playing the ball forward into the path of Carr but Hunter was out smartly to smother the ball.
There followed a period in the game when neither defence was really tested.
A good surging run from Leonard almost got some reward when his whipped in cross was met by Carr but deflected for a corner. Elliott took the corner and although it was headed clear the ball fell to Larkin who hit a terrific drive which was blocked by Graham but the ball rebounded to Milburn whose fierce drive hit Williams and was cleared up field leaving a prostrate Williams needing extensive treatment on his right leg/ankle.
RCA increased their lead just before half time and it was the evergreen Larkin who produced a superb bit of skill on the edge of the box to deceive two Boldon defenders before curling a sublime shot into the top corner.
The RCA Manager was forced to make a substitution at half time with Dorward replacing the injured Elliott.
Dorward made an immediate impact in the 48th minute when RCA were awarded a free kick 25 yards out he took responsibility and deftly curled it into the top corner with Hunter stranded.
Boldon responded with a period of pressure Hutchinson with a run down the left won a corner and took it himself, the ball was whipped into the box but Swansbury was able to clear.
Attewell intercepted a pass from Dorward and set up the visitor’s next attack with Wightman making space for himself before shooting wide.
Play switched to the other end and Larkin controlled a forward ball before playing it to Milburn who was fouled on the edge of the box. Dorward again took responsibility for the kick,this time he clipped the ball up and over the wall and into the corner of the net with a bewildered Hunter once again stranded.
RCA were in almost complete control now and Larkin completed the route 5 minutes later with another brilliant piece of dribbling before sliding the ball past Hunter and into the net.
There were other chances, Preston slipped on the greasy surface and let in Collins but his effort was well saved by Dean.
A 40 yard pile-driver from Burlace smashed against the bar and flew out for a goalkick.
The final chance fell to home debutant Milburn who latched onto a Burlace cross but his header flashed agonisingly wide of the target.
All in all this was a pleasing performance given the fact that the team had not played for over 6 weeks. Larkin rolled back the years and proved once again what he is capable of. However this was a very good team performance against a top Wearside league team and we have comfortably moved into round two of the Durham Challenge cup.
Good Luck to Boldon in their quest for promotion, they played their part in an entertaining match that was played in the right spirit and it was nice to see some Ex-RCA players still plying their trade. Andy Hunter and Jonathan Wightman still playing with a smile on their face.
The Northern League has suspended all League matches due to be played this Saturday, 19-12-2020. Pending the outcome of the government’s announcement regarding Tier 2-3 restrictions the league management Committee will decide what to do going forward.