SUNDERLAND RCA are not safe from the drop in Division One yet, but Saturday’s crucial 3-1 victory over Billingham Synthonia has greatly enhanced their survival chances.
The Wearsiders are now in fifth-bottom spot, a point ahead of West Allotment Celtic and four in front of Synners, who only have two games to play.
Defeat for the Teessiders at Penrith this afternoon, though, will guarantee RCA cannot fall below Synthonia.
As well as having four extra games to play, another fact in RCA’s favour is that they have a superior goal difference over both their rivals, which could be worth a point in the final count.
Martin Swales’ team made the best possible start to the relegation battle at Central Avenue.
With just 11 minutes on the clock, Colin Larkin sent in a rasping shot from outside the penalty area which gave goalkeeper Peter Burke no chance.
Synners were back in the game seven minutes later, though. They were awarded a penalty for a foul on David Edwards and leading marksman Michael Sweet beat Jonathan Carmichael from the spot.
On the stroke of half-time, RCA were back in front as Michael Charlton’s effort squirmed into the net past Burke.
Substitutes Joe Hughes and Clayton Davis combined for Kieran Megran to fire low into the net for RCA’s decisive third goal, and thereafter there was no way back for Synners, who are in grave danger of dropping into the Second Division for only the second time in their history.
Second-bottom Celtic Nation still have seven games to play but look doomed, 10 points adrift even of Synthonia.
Durham City were on course for an upset when they led Guisborough Town by two goals, but the visitors showed why they are genuine contenders for the championship when they hit back for an impressive 4-2 win.
Arjun Purewal and Kyle Fryatt, with a superb individual effort, had the visitors on the back foot, but, in the second half, the tables were turned by Luke Bythway, James Risborough, Andy May and Danny Earl. The win enabled Guisborough to extend their lead at the top to five points, with Marske United, 4-2 winners over West Auckland, now second.
West went ahead on 25 minutes, with an Alex Francis penalty when Marske’s Darren Hollingsworth was sent off.
Stephen Richardson made it two and, at that stage, it looked all over for 10-man Marske, but they staged a remarkable comeback. Danny Brunskill threw his side a lifeline and the Seasiders clinched victory with further goals from Jamie Owens, Josh MacDonald and Craig Gott.
Although West Auckland are third, their title hopes are almost over and it’s Shildon and North Shields who are challenging the leading pair.
Shildon, who won the Durham Challenge Cup on Friday, were without a game and the Robins moved into fifth place with a 1-0 victory at Newton Aycliffe, where Ryan Carr scored.
Stuart Thompson and Jordan Lavery netted as Bishop Auckland came from behind to win 2-1 at Bedlington Terriers, while doubles from Paul Chow and Bruno Pilatos steered Jarrow Roofing home 4-0 against Penrith.