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RCA complete second-half fight back as West crash out of Durham Challenge Cup

Sunderland RCA 3-1 West Auckland Town

Sunderland RCA came back from a goal behind at Meadow Park to beat West Auckland 3-1 and progress to the quarter-finals of the Durham Challenge Cup.

Adam Mitchell opened the scoring on 15 minutes following an inch perfect cross from Liam Hegarty as his right-footed shot flew into the bottom corner as West put in a commanding first-half performance.

In a game of two halves, RCA responded after the interval as Colin Larkin slotted past Shane Bland on 53 minutes before Nathan O’Neill beat the offside trap to send the hosts ahead 12 minutes later.

Larkin added his second of the evening on 86 minutes after converting Kyle Davis’ cross to seal a place in the last eight as West’s miserable run in the competition stretches to 53 years, having last won the trophy in 1965.

In the previous round, West edged past Ryhope CW 2-1 meanwhile RCA defeated Sunderland AFC under-23s by the same score line.

Inside the opening two minutes, Tom Price burst forward and picked out James Xydias, though the Australian could only direct his effort straight into the gloves of former Bishop Auckland goalkeeper Scott Pocklington.

Arran Wearmouth also had a sight at goal just a couple of minutes later only to be denied with a smart save from RCA’s No.1.

In damp conditions, West took the lead as Xydias’ ball over the top found Hegarty, who crossed from the left-hand side into the path of Mitchell as the winger made no mistake, hitting a sumptuous right-footed shot into the bottom corner to give Gary Forrest’s side a perfect start.

In the 18th minute, Chris Hunter’s direct free-kick saw Wearmouth connect but his powerful header narrowly sailed over the bar in what was another big chance for West to increase their lead.

RCA struggled in the first-half to match West’s tempo and found it difficult to carve out any real opportunities.

The host’s first chance didn’t arrive until the 39th minute when Michael Charlton broke through the West defence before being superbly kept out by Bland as we approached half-time.

After the restart, RCA looked a completely different outfit and equalised eight minutes into the half as a lapse in concentration allowed Larkin to nip in behind and deliver a calm composed finish beyond Bland as Meadow Park sprung to life.

With over an hour played, Martin Swales’ side had the initiative as an in-swinging corner found Larkin at the back post though his left-footed volley was parried away by Bland to keep the score line level.

On 65 minutes, Luke Page played a splendid 40-yard pass over to O’Neill, who beat the offside trap, chested it down and guided his shot into the far corner to complete the turnaround.

West looked shell-shocked and lacked the cutting edge in the second-half as it turned out to be a game of two halves.

As time started to run out for Forrest’s side, RCA inflicted one final blow late on as Davis’ low cross picked out Larkin in the centre, who converted from close range to confirm West’s second round exit.

West now return to league action as they welcome North Shields to the Wanted Stadium on Saturday afternoon (15:00).

Sunderland RCA – Pocklington, Jury, McNab, Hodgson (Lilley, 18), Swansbury (c), Page (Moan, 66), Charlton, O’Neill, K. Davis, Larkin, McAloon (Croft, 81)

Subs not used – C. Davis, Tsapalos

Goals – Larkin (53, 86), O’Neill (65)

West Auckland – Bland, Hegarty, Price, Colquhoun, Hunter, Portas (c), Xydias (Morris, 80), Francis, Wearmouth (Burnicle, 65), Purewal, Mitchell

Subs not used – Cobain, Bradley, Connor

Goal – Mitchell (15)

Referee – Stephen Dial

Attendance – 75

Report by Harry Crowe

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