Stockton Town FC v Sunderland RCA
170 hardy souls braved the cold and watched another victory for the Anchors although a little unconvincing in the first half they got warmed up a little bit for the second period. Captain Adam Nicholson made his first start for Stockton since last seasons Ernest Armstrong Cup Final replacing hamstrung Dale Mulligan, Jimmy Ward returned at the expense of Chris Stockton.
The Anchors seemed to 'freeze' in the early stages of this game and tamely handed over possession and space to RCA at times. Stockton had Liam Jordan to thank when he stood tall and denied Larkin after he was played in by Callen on 8 minutes. Full back Garbutt, intercepted a ball from Cassidy just at the last second to prevent a certain goal a few minutes later and Page had a shot charged down by Coulthard as RCA looked increasingly dangerous. Risbrough provided a couple of opportunities for Stockton racing onto a Woodhouse pass he crossed dangerously only for the ball to evade everyone, then he cut inside and curled a right foot shot just over the bar from the edge of the box. But RCA will be disappointed they went in at half time goaless following further chances for Page and Callen.
Second half saw an improvement in Stockton and more of the ball which meant Kev Hayes was involved in the game more, he played in Craggs on 54 who's shot was blocked for a corner and 5 minutes late he cut in from the right onto his favourite left foot and fired a beauty which Bussey brilliantly tipped over for a corner. RCA then had an opportunity when Cassidy cut in and his shot was blocked for a corner, the subsequent cross cleared everyone and took Adam Nicholson by surprise as he almost turned it into his own net. The Anchors looked much better and they took the lead on 73 mins when Craggs was allowed to weave his way across the pitch and OWENS took the ball off his toe to curl a lovely shot back across Bussey into the bottom corner from 16 yards. RCA responded well and created a nice move which found Luke Page 20 yards out who cracked a shot which Jordan saved well low down to his right. Stockton looked very dangerous on the break now and Mulligan and Owens linked well for the latter to spin and lay the ball into the path of the charging Hayes as RCA appealed for offside HAYES took it in his stride rounded Bussey and slotted home comfortably to make it 2-0 on 88 minutes. RCA had one more effort from Callen just before the final whistle but skipper Nicholson made a good last ditch block to deny him once again. Match Sponsors OSCAR's Gin Bar man of the match was the outstanding Tom Coulthard.
RCA will rue several missed chances in the first half as it looked like Stockton had tired legs from the hectic xmas period, but as has happened several times recently they grew into the game and finished it off better than their opponents and the form of Jamie Owens and Kevin Hayes is proving to be the difference these days. 6 League wins on the bounce has seen the Anchors move up to 7th in the table. With an exciting week of Cup football coming to Bishopton Rd, Sunderland U23's in the Durham Cup on Wednesday followed by West Auckland in the 4th Round of the FA Vase its all positive at the moment and theres no reason to doubt that the team could progress in both competitions.
Special mention to all the officials and fans who shovelled tons and tons of snow to get the game on. The club can't possibly show enough gratitude.