EBAC Northern League
by Malcolm Pratt
SUNDERLAND RCA came within a whisker of holding high-flying Spennymoor Town to a draw at The Brewery Field on Saturday.
With the game into stoppage time, the Wearsiders were deservedly holding their illustrious opponents but suffered an irretrievable blow when they conceded a penalty which Michael Rae drove into the net past keeper Jonathan Ball.
Danny Moore gave Moors the lead midway through the opening half, heading in an Andrew Stephenson corner, before Gary Shaw delivered a clinical finish wide of goalkeeper Robert Dean 10 minutes into the second period.
Durham City are now in the top half of the table after claiming a point at Billingham Synthonia with a 93rd-minute equaliser. Nathan Wilson netted for Synners on 38 minutes, and a minute from time the home side missed a golden opportunity to wrap up all three points.
Robbie Bettson was clear on goal only to be denied by City goalkeeper Gareth Young, who then saved from Dan Newby. The Teessiders came to rue the missed opportunities when, three minutes into added time, Ricky Fenwick delivered a good ball into the box for Matthew Scott to head home.
Darlington 1883 have a commanding lead at the top of the table. A crowd of 906 at Woodhorn Lane saw them edge Ashington by an only goal from Steven Johnson on 70 minutes.
West Auckland are second, 19 points off the top having played the same number of games as the Quakers.
Despite playing most of the second half with 10 men following the dismissal of Andrew Green, West managed a point in the local derby at Shildon, for whom Robbie Briggs struck before Mattie Moffat levelled.
Spennymoor Town stay third, 23 points behind Darlington with eight games in hand. Jason Ainsley’s side are fighting for honours on four fronts and a big fixture programme in the remaining weeks of the season could be to their disadvantage.
The battle for the championship is a two-horse race, but several teams are fighting to avoid finishing in the three relegation places. Norton and Stockton Ancients look doomed following defeat at Marske United, who eased their own relegation fears when Karl Charlton scored the only goal.
Norton are rock-bottom, four points behind South Shields who gained a point with a goalless draw at rejuvenated Newcastle Benfield, who, despite four wins and two draws in their last seven games, are still only fifth from the basement.
Back-to-back wins, meanwhile, have raised the prospect of Billingham Town escaping the drop.
After hitting Guisborough Town with a seven-goal rout last Thursday, they edged sixth-from-bottom Penrith with late strikes from Harrison Davies and Glen Butterworth after Kevin Halliday had fired the Cumbrians ahead.