Ebac Northern League
By Malcolm Pratt
SUNDERLAND RCA scored after just six minutes on the opening day of the season in the Ebac Northern League First Division game at Durham City – but this proved to be their only success.
Jack Stanger delivered a good cross which was headed past goalkeeper Jordan Harkess by Ross Preston.
Harkess than turned aside a half volley from Lewis Wood but despite having the better of the opening half, RCA went in level following Ollie Hotchkiss’s drive from the edge of the box on 40 minutes.
There was still time in the opening half for Stanger to hit the post but in the second period City improved to take the points.
Hotchkiss hit the crossbar and Callum Hope headed in the rebound and from then on it was all Durham who built up a two-goal cushion as Hope scored again with a delicate chip.
Things are not what they were at Celtic Nation, who had a change of ownership during the close season and all but three of last season’s squad moved on.
Bishop Auckland must have wondered what to expect in Carlisle and despite fielding an almost entirely new line-up, Celtic took the visitors to the wire.
The only goal came when John Butler was brought down by goalkeeper Ian Milburn and he stepped forward to convert the penalty.
In the second half, Milburn was sent off for a handling offence and outfield player Brett Swift took over. Bishops though were unable to build on their lead.
The three promoted sides from last season were not overawed. Pride of place went to West Allotment Celtic who thoroughly deserved a 3-0 victory at Penrith with goals by David Dormand (2) and Mark Fenwick.
Jarrow Roofing erased a two-goal deficit in gaining a point at Ashington whose marksmen were James Novak and Marc Walton.
John Campbell will surely prove to be an astute signing by Richie McLoughlin and the goal-scoring predator, who was with West Auckland Town last season, bagged a brace in the space of two minutes.
North Shields, returning to the top flight for the first time in 25 years, attracted a crowd of 278 for their fixture with Crook Town who led courtesy of Tony Stephenson before man-of-the-match Ian Holmes levelled just before the end.
SEAHAM Red Star and Heaton Stannington just missed out on promotion from Division Two last season and when they locked horns on Saturday, a close result was anticipated.
An only goal by David Palmer, who headed a Tommy English free kick past goalkeeper Shaun Backhouse, earned Star the points.
Washington had to settle for a draw with Norton and Stockton Ancients. Mark Davison was an early marksman for Steven Hutchinson’s team and after Nicky Martin restored parity, Davison was again spot-on.
Culpable defending on the hour mark opened up the opportunity for Gary Mitchell to level the scores with an easy tap-in.
Despite playing all but 18 minutes with 10 men, following the dismissal of goalkeeper Aidan Ames, Chester le Street held Alnwick Town to a draw.
Ames was red-carded for a foul on Adam Swan who converted the resultant penalty but right on the stroke of half time Scott Heslop levelled.
Tony Brown restored the advantage to Alnwick and late in the game Mark Patterson finally made the Cestrians’ relentless pressure count by scoring the equaliser.
Ryhope CW also shared the points on their visit to Billingham Town, who were relegated from Division One last time.
The Teessiders enjoyed the rare luxury of going in at the break ahead, thanks to Alan Taylor but it was no more than the Wearsiders deserved as Callum Charlton strode past defenders and beat goalkeeper Corey Smith for the equaliser.
After leaking two early goals to Clayton McDonald, Birtley Town were back in the game with Dan Maddison’s 73rd-minute strike but as they pressed for the equaliser, they left the way open for Joe Melvin to seal victory for the visitors with his last-minute goal.