Sunderland RCA 3-1 Durham City
It’s back. It had kind of been back for a bit, then went away again, then came back, but now it is properly back. Football. Competitive football.
178 days after Sunderland RCA won away at Whitley Bay and Durham City lost at Birtley, the two sides faced off in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round. A game that hung in the balance a few days earlier took place on a pleasant late summer evening on the North Sea coast.
Durham City had spent the days in advance fretting about player registartions, but were able to announce a squad of 16. In an huge about turn from last year, the whole team was made up of youngsters signed from France and the Netherlands where as the RCA had a distinctively more local feel to it.
Shooting up the hill in the first half, RCA dominated the early proceedings and were unlucky not to go ahead in the first couple of minutes. Time and again they played in to the corners, waited for the ball to hold up and whipped crosses in, but Durham were able to deal with them or rely on good luck to keep the scores level. City looked lively on the break with the pace of Jason Persee causing the home side trouble. With half time approaching RCA took the lead with a goal of true quality as Dylan Elliott found space 25 yards out before smashing an unstoppable shot in to the top corner.
This could have lead to the floodgates opening, but City reorganised and won a free kick in the 42nd minute just outside the box. Loic Grondin lined it up and scooped it over the RCA wall as it broke up, nestling in the bottom corner and sending the Citizens in level at the break.
Didier Agathe gathered his players and delivered a team talk with renewed vigour, but it was RCA who retook the initiatve, making it 2-1 in the 48th minute as they seized on a loose ball and rounded the keeper. Shooting down the hill, RCA always looked dangerous with superb quality crosses and corners coming in from Dylan Elliott and Anthony Callaghan attacking down the left flank.
Durham had a chance to equalise in the 85th minute after a long ball beat the offisde trap, but the low shot trickled agonisingly wide of the post. The game was put to bed minutes later as RCA scored a third from a corner. The first effort cannoned back off the cross bar and the rebound was blocked, possibly over the line. Before the chance for any controversy arose, the third rebound was forced over the line to put the home side 3-1 up and set up a tie away to Thornaby who beat Bridlington Town 2-0.
RCA will be a tough nut to crack in the Northern League First Division, but there were some promising signs for Durham. Central midfield pair Loic Grondin and Raphael De Guigne looked classy and Joel Ampadu was the pick of the back four, reading the game well. With more players to be registered, City will hope for a better result against landlords Willington in their first league game at the weekend.