THERE was a sigh of relief at Meadow Park last night when Sunderland RCA clinched three crucial points against rival strugglers Hebburn Town to ease their position near the bottom of the Ebac Northern League First Division.
Although they eventually emerged 5-3 winners, it wasn’t all plain sailing for David Lee’s side.
Hebburn struck first after only seven minutes when Channon North fired into the net from just inside the 18 yard line.
RCA levelled 12 minutes later as Joe Hughes slotted home at the near post, picking up a pass from Kyle Fryett and two goals in a minute allowed them to build up a two-goals cushion.
On the half-hour mark Ross Wilkinson crossed for Gavin Barton to head past goalkeeper Gary Rogers who was immediately beaten again by Barton. This time he pounced on a rebound when his first effort had been partially saved.
Hebburn though hit back to level the scores at 3-3 by the 70th minute. North beat Josh Carmichael from a corner and Chris Smith converted a penalty to throw the result wide open.
RCA finished strongly, scoring twice in the space of three minutes. A long clearance by Carmichael was headed on by Barton to Calvin Patton and he made no mistake before Hughes volleyed home.
The Wearsiders remain fourth from bottom but are now four points ahead of Team Northumbria who occupy the last relegation place. They are equal on points with Penrith but the Cumbrians, who play tonight, have a much superior goals difference.
With Billingham Town and Hebburn Town almost certain to be relegated, the fight is on to avoid joining them in the Second Division next season.
In the only other game to go ahead, Consett took their goals total to an impressive 93 when they hammered Marske United 7-1 at Belle Vue Park.
Luke Sullivan was an early scorer but within three minutes Josh McDonald levelled for Marske.
From then on though it was one-way traffic and the goals flowed from man-of-the-match Sullivan, who finished with four to his credit, Michael Mackay, Andrew Cuthbertson and Calvin Smith.
The Steelmen are the Division’s leading scorers and remain seventh top while Marske are eighth from bottom.
H Sunderland RCA will be anxiously looking for the results of two games tonight which affect positions near the bottom of the First Division table.
Penrith are fifth from the basement, just ahead of RCA on goals difference before visiting Newton Aycliffe who are comfortably placed in mid-table.
Morpeth Town have reached the last 16 of the FA Carlsberg Vase for the first time in their history but their top flight status is anything but secure and they’ll go all ouy for three crucial points against Crook Town at Craik Park.
In Division Two, Brandon United are only a point and one place outside the bottom two, ahead of their home game with promotion hopefuls Jarrow Roofing, who are only two points behind third-placed Seaham Red Star with four games in hand on the East Durham side.
North Shields, with 12 consecutive wins, travel to Northallerton Town aiming to boost their already impressive eight points lead at the top while lowly Alnwick Town, buoyed after scoring five goals in their last outing, will be looking for back-to-back wins at home to Willington.
Two cups ties are scheduled. Shildon will make another attempt to stage their Durham Challenge Cup Third Round tie against Dunston UTS whose manager Billy Irwin is anxious for the game to go ahead to give his players match time before Saturday’s Vase tie against Brightlingsea Regent from Essex.
Spennymoor Town are also involved in the Vase at the week-end but before then take on championship rivals Shildon in the Third Round of the Durham Challenge Cup at Dean Street.