FA Vase Fourth Round:
Sunderland RCA 0-1 West Auckland Town (AET)
Substitute Lewis Dodds struck a last gasp winner deep into extra-time to send West Auckland into the last 16 of the FA Vase after a closely contested affair against Sunderland RCA.
With 90 minutes unable to separate both sides, the game petered out to extra-time as a replay looked to be on the cards.
Though in remarkable circumstances moments before the full-time whistle, Thomas Price’s low cross sailed past multiple RCA defenders before Dodds connected at the back post with a decisive strike in the 120th minute to spark spectacular celebrations and book West’s place in the fifth round of the competition.
Following the 2-2 draw with Ryhope CW last weekend, Gary Forrest made five changes with Denver Morris, Adam Mitchell, Adam Burnicle and Lewis Dodds all on the bench and Ross Colquhoun suspended making way for Tom Price, Steven Snaith, Alex Francis, David Dowson and Amar Purewal.
In cool conditions, it was a tense start at Meadow Park from both sides with a place in the last 16 up for grabs.
The first meaningful chance occurred for West on 14 minutes when Francis beat the offside trap, found himself in a one-on-one position and from eight yards out, hit a low shot into the feet of Scott Pocklington.
RCA carved out their first opportunity eight minutes later as Nathan O’Neill toe poked the ball through to Michael Charlton, who was in on goal on the left-hand side as he delivered a crisp strike against the post only to see his rebound pushed to safety following a crucial block by Shane Bland.
In the 24th minute, West went close again as Francis whipped in a dangerous cross for Purewal to attack though the striker could only divert his bullet header inches wide of the target.
With half-time fast approaching, Forrest’s side were looking the more likely to break the deadlock and almost found the opening with an audacious attempt from Price as his left-footed cross took a slight deflection and looped over Pocklington onto the crossbar before the danger was eventually cleared as the all Northern League clash came to a brief halt.
In what was a tightly contested second-half with limited chances, RCA posed a rare threat on 71 minutes as a quick corner was punched away by Bland into the path of Luke Page, who crossed it back in from the far post as Dominic Moan struck just wide from six yards out.
As tensions were building around Meadow Park, extra-time loomed large as both sides cancelled each other out with notable defensive displays.
Gary Forrest made several changes and took advantage of the fourth substitute rule where it allows a extra sub if 30 minutes of extra time has to be played.
Seven minutes Into extra time, Tom Portas found a pocket of space in behind the RCA defence and pulled it back across goal for Burnicle only to be denied via a vital block from skipper Greg Swansbury as Martin Swales’ side looked to weather the storm.
However, into the last minute of the game, West sparked scenes of pandemonium as Tom Price broke clear down the left hand side and sent across a perfect low cross, which inexplicably flew past multiple RCA defenders and found Lewis Dodds after a perfectly timed run to slot home and record a third consecutive clean sheet in the competition, after having previously seen off Thackley AFC and Avro FC to get to the last 16.
Speaking to manager Gary Forrest after the game, he praised his lads for there efforts and sticking to the managements game plan, which overturned two defeats against RCA this season.
With the fifth-round draw taking place on Monday afternoon, West await their next opponents meanwhile in the Northern League, they turn theirattention to Saturday for a home encounter against Whitley Bay in search of a second successive victory in 2019 (15:00).
Sunderland RCA – Pocklington, Lilley, McNab, Preston, Swansbury (c), Hodgson, Charlton (Lavery, 79), Page, O’Neill, Larkin, Moan (Davison, 100)
Subs not used – Croft, Tsapalos, Davis
West Auckland – Bland, Hegarty, Price, Cobain, Hunter, Snaith (c), Portas (Morris, 104), Francis (Dodds, 113), Dowson (Burnicle, 79), Purewal, Wearmouth (Mitchell, 66)
Sub not used – Connor
Goal – Dodds (120)
Referee – Ian Gittins
Attendance – 264
Report by Harry Crowe
Photo by Andy Mitchell