What a difference a year makes. Last September, Sunderland RCA were rock bottom of Division One, but today they are eighth-top ahead of tomorrow’s Camerons Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup tie at home to North Shields.
Martin Swales has certainly turned things around since he came in as manager and only an 89th-minute goal prevented his side from defeating Newton Aycliffe on Saturday.
Victory would have propelled the Wearsiders into the top six, but they had to settle for a 1-1 draw, with Brian Close heading in a last-ditch Aycliffe equaliser.
Wayne Buchanan had given RCA the lead on 15 minutes when he struck from close range and it appeared that his goal would be sufficient – until Close rescued a point for the hosts.
Two of the sides promoted last season clashed and Seaham Red Star, fourth from bottom, threatened to cause an upset against unbeaten Washington.
Paul Gardiner and Liam McBryde fired them into a 2-0 lead at Seaham Town Park. Mark Davison threw the Mechanics a lifeline on 55 minutes, but it took a 90th-minute equaliser by Craig Hennis to save the day for Washington, who stay third.
Durham City have been inconsistent, but they rose to the challenge against champions Marske United where they unexpectedly won by a comfortable 3-0 margin.
Callum Patton was their man-of-the-match, scoring all three goals, including a penalty, awarded after he had been brought down.
Shildon, who were without a fixture, continue to lead the table but now only by a single point from Morpeth Town, who were 3-1 derby winners at Ashington.
Paul Dunn was a third-minute marksman for Steve Harmison’s Colliers, but his defence couldn’t curtail the scoring instincts of one-time Sunderland reserve Sean Taylor, who rifled a hat-trick.
West Auckland remain at the basement after their bottom-two contest with West Allotment Celtic ended 2-2.
West Auckland trailed to strikes by Dale Pearson and Lee Scott, but made the numerical advantage count after their opponents had Kyle Dobson sent off in the 25th minute. Shaun Hudson halved the deficit and, just before the end, Kris Goss restored parity.
Bedlington Terriers occupy the third relegation spot. Despite losing 2-0 at Consett, for whom Michael Mackay and Calvin Smith scored, Terriers have shown improved form in their last two games.