The long wait is over as competitive football returns to Sunderland LGV Park after the longest close season in history.
The fact that it was an FA Cup Extra Preliminary match just added spice to the occasion.
We were delighted to welcome every one of the 170 spectators who made the effort to attend and thank them for their patience and compliance with theCOVID-19 restrictions which are in place.
Excellent work from the club's ground staff Dave and George meant that the pitch was in fantastic condition and thanks to the committee and volunteers who have worked so hard in the close season to get the ground ready the season ahead.
The teams lined up as follows:
Sunderland RCA: Dean, Forster, Callaghan, Preston, Swansbury ©, Hodgson, Davis, Elliott, Fairley, Hope, Callen; Subs: O’Neill, Best, Errington, Agnew, Larkin, Carr, Ward
Durham City: Vidot, Osei-Agyenmang, Afriyie, Ampadu, Pinas, Grondin©, Rojer, De Guigne, Persee, Van Veenendaal,Wahab;Subs: Finseca, Hunt, Wainwright, Whelan, Aitouarg.
Both sides started briskly showing their intent to push forward at every opportunity, the first real chance came when Davis picked up a through ball from Elliott, outpaced the Durham defence but fired his shot straight at Vidot.
Durham countered with a long ball over the top from Amoadu which found Persee he beat the offside trap but could only fire a weak shot straight at Dean.
RCA started to apply some pressure on the Durham rearguard and it looked to be only a matter of time before they scored, shots from Callen, Fairley and Elliott were all blocked and scrambled away by a very resilient defence.
Callen produced the next real threat when he chested down a cross from Davis before deftly curling in a shot which Vidot managed to tip over the bar for a corner.
As the game settled down it became more of a midfield battle with a lot of niggly fouls disrupting the flow of the game.
RCA thought they had broken the deadlock in the 23 minute when a free kick by Elliott was headed back across goal by Swansbury and Callen flicked a header over the keeper and into the net, unfortunately the assistant referees flag was raised for an offside against Swansbury.
A swift counter attack instigated by Vidot saw the ball played forward to Van Veenendaal who controlled the ball well before bursting into the RCA penalty area but he scooped his effort over the bar.
For the first time in the game Durham looked to be imposing themselves on the game, on the half hour Grondin whipped in a freekick from the right which was met by Van Veenendaal his reaction shot hit the post and rebounded to Wahab who blasted the ball over the bar.
Durham continued to press forward and Dean was forced into a good save when Osei-Agyenmang picked up a loose ball on the half way line and was allowed to run to the edge of the box before unleashing a low drive.
RCA eventually responded with a quick counter attack of their own when Davis slipped the ball forward to Fairley but his erratic shot was way off target.
However within a minute RCA took the lead, a quick throw in by Callahan was picked up by Callen who squared the ball to Elliott who struck a sweet shot from 25 yards out into the top corner of the net.
From the kick off Durham attacked and a needless free kick was given away on the edge of the box, Grondin stepped up and curled a low shot around the wall and into the bottom corner of the net to make it 1-1 at half time.
RCA were quick out of the blocks in the second half re-taking the lead in the 47 minute when a brilliant cross field ball from Elliott was played by Callen into the path of Fairley who rounded the advancing keeper before slotting home.
The game was certainly hotting up with three goals recorded in the space of 10 minutes.
The home team continued to press forward and Callen was unlucky with a header from a Davis free kick as the ball flew over the bar.
The introduction of Larkin and O’Neill almost paid dividends within minutes of their arrival as Larkin skipped past two challenges to get in a cross to the far post where O’Neill chested the ball down but his shot was deflected wide for a corner.
Two minutes later and a curling inswinging corner by Elliott to the far post was headed narrowly wide of the post.
Durham were being reduced to very sporadic attacks but their pace up front meant that the RCA defence had to be on their toes all the time.
O’Neill’s height was causing problems for the durham defence and he almost scored when he battled his way through a number of tackles before shooting but Vidot managed to make a supurb save to deny the RCA striker.
In the final 15 minutes the lively Larkin broke forward again, his fierce shot was parried by Vidot but the ball fell to Hope whose shot was blocked by Ampadu.
Durham set up a quick attack from a goal kick with the ball being played forward by Osei-Agyenmang into the path of substitute Hunt, he managed to wriggle his way past two challenges before shooting narrowly wide of the upright.
Inside the final 10 minutes and another clever cross field ball from Elliott found Callaghan who cut inside his marker before curling a shot toward the far corner of the goal but once again Vidot was able to snatch the ball out of the air
Another long ball forward found the Durham captain Grondin in space and he immediately set off on a run which saw him burst into the RCA box but he stabbed his effort inches wide of the post.
Play switched immediately to the opposite end, a long goal kick from Dean was headed on by Callen, the ball fell to Larkin who fired in a shot which was blocked the ball rebounding to Callen who smashed the ball against the underside of the bar and in the scramble that ensued O’Neill dove in to head home from close range to increase RCA's lead.
Grondin had one more chance from a free kick just outside the area but this time his whipped curling effort was saved by Dean.
RCA progress to the next round of the cup on the 12th September away to Thornaby who defeated Bridlington 2 – 0.
Durham City gave a good account of themselves in a keenly fought encounter and should do alright in the second division if they can continue to put in performances like this.
RCA still look like they need to work on this new formation although they coped well with the pace and direct play of Durham.
Next up for RCA is the little matter of a local Derby at Sunderland LGV Park on Saturday, 5 September 2020.