GOALKEEPER Neal Atkinson was Sunderland RCA’s man-of-the-match and last-gasp goal scorer, earning a dramatic replay against Ashington in the FA Cup extra preliminary round on Saturday, writes MALCOLM PRATT.
The Wearsiders, who played with 10 men for the best part of an hour, produced a battling performance but it was Atkinson’s heroics at both ends of the field which decided the outcome.
A goal behind to Gareth Williams’ strike, and a man down following Brian Close’s red card, Neil Hixon’s side were staring defeat in the face and it seemed all over in the 92nd minute when Phil Bell looked a certain scorer.
But somehow Atkinson (pictured) kept the ball out and if his team-mates applauded then, they were absolutely delighted with him three minutes later.
RCA won a corner and when Ashington goalkeeper Karl Dryden could only parry the ball, Atkinson – up for the flag-kick – drove it into the net for a sensational equaliser.
The teams will again lock horns at Meadow Park in tomorrow’s replay.
“Bearing in mind we had Brian Close sent off after just 34 minutes, I thought the lads put up a fantastic performance, but who can take the man-of-the-match award from Neal Atkinson?” declared Hixon.
Durham City edged home 2-1 against Newcastle Benfield, who led through Ian Graham before Wayne Gredziak and Stephen Thompson, with a clinical drive from outside the penalty area, turned it around.
Washington lost 3-1 to visitors Esh Winning, who were three goals ahead courtesy of Danny Kokes (2) and Luke Thompson before Matthew Wade responded.
Much-fancied Spennymoor attracted a crowd of 365 for their tight 1-0 home win over Scarborough Athletic, Michael Laws powerfully heading home a corner.
Shildon cruised home 6-0 at Whitehaven, thanks to Ben Wood (2), Sam Garvie (2), Robbie Briggs and Chris Hughes.
Bishop Auckland eased past Tow Law 2-0, thanks to Chris Lawson and Jamie Harwood, while Dunston UTS won by the same score, with Andy Bulford’s brace sinking Armthorpe Welfare.
West Auckland were four up thanks to John Campbell (2), Craig Hubbard and Mattie Moffat before Liversedge grabbed two replies.
Warren Byrne and Chris Hughes were Crook Town’s matchwinners in a 2-1 victory against Penrith, while Whitley Bay progressed 2-1 at Bridlington Town, courtesy of Chris Moore and Paul Chow.
Stuart Nicholson (2) and Liam McBryde earned Hebburn a fine 3-1 win at Thackley.
Chester-le-Street must replay at Billingham Town tomorrow after a home goalless draw, in which Adam Strong failed with a penalty.
Birtley Town host North Shields in their replay after a 1-1 draw. Paul Watson fired the Robins ahead, but Andrew Grant-Soulsby levelled three minutes from time.
Jarrow Roofing also left it late against Pickering Town in a 1-1 draw, with Michael Hedley’s 85th-minute strike levelling it up.