PAUL Bennett sensationally quit as manager of Ryhope CW before Saturday’s Monkwearmouth Charity Cup semi-final against Richmond Town.
Secretary George McKitterick said that Bennett, who had only been in post at the Wearside League title chasers for a few weeks, texted chairman Darren Norton to say he was standing down with immediate effect.
“Paul didn’t give a reason. We asked senior players Phil Hall and James Dunn to take charge of the team on Saturday and they will oversea the players in the coming games,” said McKitterick.
Ryhope shrugged off the news to edge out Richmond 4-3 in a thrilling tie, setting up a final date with Stockton Town.
With an hour gone, it appeared that Ryhope – who originally had their semi-final abandoned back on November 30 – would simply coast to victory.
They were four goals ahead and there looked to be no way back for the visitors, but, amazingly, the Yorkshiremen struck three times to set up a frenetic finale.
Scott Donaldson’s 10th-minute header gave Ryhope a perfect start and Jack Pounder doubled the lead with a volley from 15 yards eight minutes later.
It got better still after 36 minutes as Nathan O’Neil made it three. Seven minutes into the second period, Martin Metcalfe delivered a clinical finish for Ryhope’s fourth.
It took a penalty to get Richmond back into the game and Kalumn Holbrook made no mistake, driving the ball wide of goalkeeper Ryan Graham.
Simon Pinkney cut the deficit to 4-2 on 75 minutes and, a minute from the end, Richmond were well and truly back in with a chance when Michael Layfield struck.
Ryhope, though, held out for an exciting 4-3 win.
Easington Colliery’s dream of making it into the Wearside League Cup final ended when Redcar Athletic finished comfortable 3-0 winners.
The Colliers were culpable on 14 minutes in allowing Adam Preston to head home. Early in the second period, Keiran Stares beat the offside trap and drove past goalkeeper Kyle Donaldson to double the lead.
Easington’s attempts to get back into the game were thwarted by Redcar’s well-organised defence and it was all over 10 minutes from time when Preston scored his second goal.
In the league, leaders Stockton Town were without a game and Ryhope CW were on cup duty, giving Cleator Moor Celtic the opportunity to close in on the pair, which they did with victory over Ashbrooke Belford House.
Aaron Kelly reacted quickly to fire past Brett Wilson after 42 minutes. Then, when the goalkeeper parried a shot from Glyn Edwards in the 67th minute, Darren Little pounced to fire into an empty net for 2-0.
The Cumbrians made sure of all three points nine minutes from the end as Leigh Dunn beat his defender before slotting the ball wide of Wilson.
Sunderland West End remain sixth-top despite losing 3-1 at Harton and Westoe CW,.
Following a goalless opening half, John Murray and Finbar Lynch fired Harton into the lead, but West End were back in with a chance following John Coomber’s penalty.
The Wearsiders’ hopes, though, all but ended as Murray beat goalkeeper Callum Houghton for his second goal.
Horden CW just edged bottom-of-the-table Hartlepool with a last-minute Darren Atkinson penalty.
Tom Wilkie gave the Colliers a third-minute lead and after Stephen Chapman levelled 15 minutes from the end, they were awarded a penalty, only for goalkeeper Michael Campbell to save sub Simon Todd’s 80th-minute effort.
When Horden were awarded a second spot-kick, it was entrusted to Atkinson, who made no mistake.
Silksworth CW left it late before claiming a 1-1 draw at home to Jarrow, for whom James Allsopp volleyed past goalkeeper Joe Clayton in the 63rd minute.
With the clock running down, Glen Hargrave drove through a crowded goalmouth for an 88th-minute equaliser.
Coxhoe Athletic looked to be on their way to all three points at Prudhoe Town, but they ended with none.
The visitors built up a two-goal cushion courtesy of John Cook and Mark Sagar (own goal) before David Wansell began Prudhoe’s fightback. Stephen Foster equalised and Johnny Hewitson grabbed the winner three minutes from time.
Ross Nicholson’s strike earned Annfield Plain a 1-0 win in the bottom-five contest at Leam Rangers, while three players were sent off in Seaton Carew’s 3-1 win over Wolviston.