Unlucky 13 as Sunderland RCA run ends

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IT proved to be unlucky 13 for STL Northern League First Division leaders Sunderland RCA at the weekend.

West Auckland arrived at Meadow Park also enjoying a rich vein of form and the Darlington Road men emerged victorious by the odd goal in five, inflicting a first defeat of the season on Neil Hixon’s side in their 13th match.

The Wearsiders could hardly have made a worse start as they conceded a third-minute goal to Alex Francis. West were indebted to a series of fine stops from keeper Kyle Barlow to maintain their lead as the leaders fought back strongly.

Eight minutes before the interval Andy Jennings equalised, but, on the stroke of half-time, Stephen Brown delivered a clinical free-kick into the bottom corner of the home net to restore West’s advantage.

Stuart Banks and Daniel Hindmarsh were close to increasing the lead, and Brown finally made it 3-1 on the hour, firing home a low strike after sub Mattie Moffat headed on a cross.

Lee Owens converted a 72nd-minute penalty to give RCA hope of a point, but Barlow stayed strong to keep them out, though one effort flew inches wide of the post, and the visitors held on to their slender lead.

RCA are still top, but only by a couple of points from Dunston UTS, now the only unbeaten side.

Andrew Bulford rifled all three goals in Dunston’s victory at Norton, who replied through on-loan Whitby striker Andy Campbell and Darren Mowbray.

West Auckland stay third and Whitley Bay and Spennymoor are just behind them after Moors defeated Ian Chandler’s men 2-0, with goals from Adam Johnston and Gavin Cogdon.

At the other end of the table, Stokesley SC have a mountain to climb to avoid the drop – even at this early stage of the season.

A 5-0 defeat at South Shields, whose scorers were Alex Benjamin (2), Jamie Scope, David Southern and Stephen Ramsey, leaves them with just one point from 14 games.

Tow Law are just marginally better off, but they gave an encouraging performance against Guisborough, despite losing to a David Onions penalty.

Bishop Auckland had Adam McLane and Dion Raitt sent off in the second half at Shildon, but still managed a point with a stoppage-time Darren Richardson strike.

Stephen Salvin had given Bishops the lead before Warren Byrne’s brace had Shildon in the driving seat against nine men. Richardson, though, came up trumps at the death.

Consett look to have put their recent difficult spell behind them and they made it back-to-back victories, defeating Billingham Town with first-half strikes from Dale Burrell and Marc Walton.