Been a funny old run of games lately. A great win down at Shildon which keeps the Vase run going, which we all enjoy of course, and other good cup results as well against Garstang, Crook and Sunderland Under 23s, but frankly ropey results in the league. Draws in home games we would have expected to win, and defeats at North Shields and Stockton add up to a worrying trend. I think we are still better than that and will prove it as the season goes on, but for now there is no doubt we have yet to consistently perform as we did at the end of last season. There are a number of reasons why, injuries to key players among them, and it is clearly frustrating for everyone but as Sean Dyche says, the only answer is to keep working hard, and Sean would know, wouldn’t he? I remain confident that this will end up being a good season, but I’m not sure how, or in which competitions.
View from the Cemetery
Very good little run out to Garstang the other week I am told, bonny little town, good pubs and beer, very good RCA away support, and a good club enjoying their first ever Vase run. Sounds like a fairly typical RCA performance as well, completely on top in the first half, loads of chances and four goals before the break, game won, then a full scale wobble, followed by settling things late on. Still, can’t complain about 6-2 away. Pity the next round is Shildon, shame for the league to have one of us certainly going out, an inevitable result of the geographical grading system used by the FA. I am not sure that cries of fix are true, but it certainly sways things away from the Northern League. And a bit worrying for us as there is no doubt Shildon are just about our number one bogey side over the past few years. Nearly always problems when we go there, players injured or some such, so let’s hope this time we are full strength or near enough. If we are then there is no need to worry about Shildon, only need to worry what state of mind we will turn up in. If we have our full cup tie fighting head on then Bob’s your uncle. They beat us at Meadow Park earlier this season, but that was more than a bit unlucky; they defended for their lives then hit us on the break. Fair enough, but I don’t think they will be able to play like that at home in a Vase tie, their numerous and vocal fans wouldn’t stand for it, and toe to toe I fancy us strong.
Last weekend all was doom and gloom after a couple of losses, but as so often the wheel turns quickly. I thought our win over Whitley Bay was probably better than the bare form suggested. They were very quick and determined up front, excellent on the break, and it looked to me that they were probably a side on the way up and improving fast rather than on the slide. Don't know if I'm right, time will tell, but their good win last Saturday at Hebburn makes our result against them look good. Followed by another good win, albeit right at the death, down at Bishops. We haven't half got the voodoo going over them in recent seasons. Evidently Nath O'Neill managed to miss a sitter and get the winner, both in injury time. Still by all accounts now that they have a couple of capable and football wise Sunderland lads in charge they are looking a lot better. We have a good few of those if anybody is looking. They have struggled the last couple of seasons and from the outside it's difficult to work out why. Given the infrastructure and support they should be right there every season you would think, but it hasn't happened for a while. And one of the few clubs with a real desire to get promoted. It's a strange world.
In my fond wonderings last week I was of the opinion that upcoming games against Shildon and Whitley Bay were eminently winnable. Shows you what I know, for the first of those fixtures anyway. Shildon deployed three centre halves, two of them former RCA players in Leon Carling and Darryll Hall, and the other one one of whom, long term Shildon stalwart Dan “Bobby” Moore, played in midfield, clattered everybody, and got the vital opening goal. There is an old saying that there is no such thing as a good plan but any plan is better than no plan, and Shildon definitely had a plan. Defend for your lives just about sums it up. So credit to them when it worked so well, but I’m not sure it’s a long term recipe for success. The first goal was always going to be vital and so it proved. No shortage of effort from RCA but a shortage of inspiration, and maybe too much long ball. Never mind, what of the second leg of this week’s games? Will we catch Whitley Bay on one of their scoring six or more days? I hope not. And we are due a bit more reward for our work, but I will stop making predictions.