THE curtain comes down on the STL Northern League season tonight when top-four sides Sunderland RCA and Dunston UTS meet at Meadow Park.
Although UTS cannot now win the championship, a good gate is expected to see the FA Carlsberg Vase finalists play their last game before going to Wembley.
RCA chairman Owen Haley, delighted with his side’s campaign, said: “Obviously, the match doesn’t have the importance it might have had, but it’s still an attractive fixture.
“We have finished fourth and Dunston are just above us. There’s no pressure on either team and hopefully we can treat spectators to an entertaining game.
“We’ve had our best-ever season in the Northern League. We have never ended above 10th, so to finish fourth in only our second season back in the top flight is a real achievement.
“I think we have performed above expectations but now we have to attempt to replicate our performance next season,” added Haley.
Manager Neil Hixon, whose reputation has soared during the last year, says that if he had been handed fourth spot last August he would have taken it without question.
He said: “We were 13th last time and our aim was to improve on that, so to be where we are is fantastic.
“We led the table in 27 of the 37 weeks and if we win tonight we’ll be just eight points behind champions Spennymoor.
“This statistic really puts our season into perspective.
“It will be difficult, though, to duplicate what we have done. The big boys will no doubt strengthen their squads. It’s difficult to compete with them, but we’ll do out best.”
Andrew Cuthbertson and Harrison Davies are definite absentees tonight and Hixon must assess the fitness of Mark Davison and captain Brian Close before finalising his line-up.
Dunston, who start five points ahead of the Wearsiders, lost out on the championship when they lost at Spennymoor on Monday. They delay announcing their squad until nearer kick-off.