The first friendly of the new season and we travel to Birtley Town, the weather is kind a downpour two hours before the match and then the sun came out.
The pitch was in excellent condition and all the new Covid-19 restriction were in place. Players arriving with their kit on is a bit surreal as is the team talks taking place in the main stands or on the pitch.
Only a few committee men and the odd injured player from both teams formed the crowd.
RCA with a squad of 20 to choose from started with the following line-up: Frampton, Allen, Callaghan, Hodgson, Errington, Ward, Elliott, O'Neill, Hope, Davison, and Callen. Subs from: Preston, Dean, McNab, Sharp, Slack, Croft, Armstrong, Forster.
Birtley's starting eleven: Mordey, Garrity, Hedley, Lancaster, McGill, Honour, Hake, Collins, Young, Aiston, Barwick. Subs: not known
The game got off to a tremendous start for the home team as the surged forward in the opening minutes and the RCA defence could not clear their lines.
In the third minute McGill finished off a good move with a well place effort out of the reach of Frampton and into the net.
RCA were guilty of misplacing a number of passes in these early stages of the match and in the 7th minute Aiston intercepted a wayward pass from Elliott before breaking forward and squaring the ball to Barwick, his initial effort was parried by Frampton but the ball fell kindly for Barwick and he made no mistake with the follow up drilling it into the net to make it 2-0 to the hosts.
The visitors, stung by this early setback, began to apply some of their own pressure and the build up play improved.
With 15 minutes gone they almost equalised when Callen whipped in a cross which was picked up by Davison, he controlled the ball well before firing in a shot which Mordey brilliantly turned round the post for a corner.
RCA were steadily getting into the game but had to be wary of the counter attacking skills of their opponents.
A corner taken short by Callaghan to Elliott saw his curling effort tipped wide by Mordey. The resulting corner was easily cleared to Honour who raced down the left before whipping in a cross which Barwick headed wide.
On the half hour RCA opened up the Birtley defence when Callaghan played the ball to Callen, he squared the ball inside to Hope whose first time effort flashed inches wide of the target.
Back came Birtley, a long ball out of defence by Lancaster found Aiston on the edge of the box where he was fouled by Hodgson. Collins took the freekick but his dipping shot flew over the bar.
As the first half drifted to it conclusion another long ball by Lancaster picked out Honour on the left he again whipped in a cross which was met by Barwick but he headed over the bar.
Half time team talks conducted on the pitch substitutions made too numerous for my simple brain to remember.
RCA, like Birtley in the first half, started the second half in total command and in the 48th minute reduced the arrears when a four man move saw Allen play the ball to Callaghan whoin turn found Callen on the edge of the box he played it to Hope who, in a confined space dragged the ball back before unleashing a terrific low drive which flew past the helpless Mordey.
Birtley had the next meaningful attack when Hake had a shot saved by Dean, the ball spun free and in the goalmouth scramble that followed the ball fell to Aiston whose shot was cleared off the line.
The game was end to end with RCA having the next chance, Callaghan playing on the right, clipped the ball forward to Connor who slide the ball inside to Hope but his shot went narrowly wide of the upright.
With all substitution made and the players adjusting to new roles on the pitch the game became very scrappy for a 10 minute period.
In the final 10 minutes RCA pushed forward looking for an equaliser while the home side continued to counter attack to great effect looking to kill off the game.
RCA forced three consecutive corners as Birtley defence held strong, the 3rd corner was headed over the bar by Callen and this was the last maeningful effort by either team.
An enjoyable game if not the result we would have wanted. Blew a few cobwebs away.
Massive thanks to Birtley Town committee, management and players for putting this match on in these very difficult times, I for one understand the problems that have been encountered and overcome, also a mention to the Officials for their contribution to an entertaining match.
Thanks also go out to our committee, management and players for their co-operation in the pre match testing that took place their response has been exemplary. A massive personal thanks from me to Mark Cowan who, from his Hospital bed, has still managed to assist in the "behind the scene's" preparation of this match. "GET WELL SOON MARK".