EARLY days perhaps, but manager Neil Hixon is delighted with Sunderland RCA’s form.
The impressive Wearsiders made it three wins and a draw from four games when they went nap against Ashington in Saturday’s First Division game at Meadow Park.
Add in the seven-goal FA Cup mauling of Birtley Town and Hixon’s enthusiasm appears well-founded.
He said: “I thought we were a bit sluggish early on, but, once we equalised, only one team was going to win.
“I know it’s early, but I’m more than confident we can compete with the top teams.”
The Wearsiders, though, were set back on their heels after only five minutes when Gareth Bainbridge chipped goalkeeper Gary Hoggeth for the visitors’ opener.
Within a minute, Marc Walton raced clear to equalise and, on the stroke of half-time, Gavin Barton scored the first of three goals with an exquisite strike from 15 yards.
There was a rare glimmer of hope for Ashington when they were awarded a 46th-minute penalty but Hoggeth came to RCA’s rescue saving Stephen Young’s spot-kick.
Hixon’s men coasted the second half. Barton completed his hat-trick before Mark Davison made it 5-1 from the spot.
Champions Spennymoor hit top form for the first time, crushing South Shields 5-0, with Craig Ruddy, Adam Johnston, Leon Ryan (penalty), Sam Garvie and John Alexander scoring.
Jarrow Roofing had Paul Robinson on target in a 4-1 loss at Billingham Synthonia, while Michael Mackay’s brace steered Consett home 4-1 at Guisborough.
There was a remarkable game at Bedlington Terriers, who completely overwhelmed hapless Stokesley SC.
Four goals ahead at the interval, the Northumbrians scored another 11 in the second half to finish with a phenomenal 15-0 victory.
Anthony Shandran was Stokesley’s chief tormentor with six strikes, with goals also flowing from Ian Graham (2), Tommy English (2), Dean Douglas (2), Steven Stewart, Steven Bowey and Chris Philipson.
Leaders Newcastle Benfield quietly went about their task at West Auckland to maintain the only 100 per cent record.
They were helped along the way by West’s indiscipline. The hosts needlessly conceded a 19th-minute penalty, converted by Michael Chilton, and Chilton netted with another spot-kick on 51 minutes.
This resulted in a double blow for West, who had John Parker sent off. Brian Dodsworth soon wrapped up the points with a fine individual effort at 3-0.
Paul Chow and Phil Bell each struck twice as second-top Whitley Bay beat Marske 4-0, while Josh Gray, Ben Wood and Elliott Gardner gave Newton Aycliffe a 3-2 win over Billingham Town.