12:42am Thursday 31st October 2013
By Ray Simpson
Darlington 3 Sunderland RCA 1
(after extra time, 1-1 after 90 minutes)
Darlington won a cup tie for the first time at Heritage Park, but they needed extra time to dispose of Sunderland RCA in the Durham Challenge Cup.
Martin Gray made wholesale changes against the Northern League opposition, but still fielded a number of senior players and gave a debut to new signing Nathan Fisher.
He impressed but did not get on the scoresheet and it was RCA who held a half-time lead thanks to Josh Home-Jackson.
The 90 minutes ended all-square thanks to a leveller by Chris Moore and in extra-time Darlington earned a place in the second round with goals by Steven Johnson and Jordan Robinson.
The fans did not have to wait long to see what Fisher, the top scorer in the Northern League four years ago, is capable of as he picked up the ball on the halfway line, ran 40 yards into the RCA box and hit a left foot shot that keeper Andrew Spence fisted away.
Moore was narrowly wide with a diagonal shot on ten minutes, then Johnson, captain for the night, swivelled quickly inside the box and forced Spence into a good save low down.
The chances continued to come to Quakers, however, the RCA managed to take the lead a minute before half time when a Spence clearance was helped on to Josh Home-Jackson, who sidestepped a defender and curled a delightful left foot shot past the helpless Peter Jameson.
Quakers again had more pressure in the second half, but without any end product. Johnson dragged a shot wide from the edge of the box, and then Paul Robinson produced the pass of the night to send Moore away, but a defender just managed to tackle him inside the six yard box.
Fisher, who had not played for six weeks, was subbed on the hour with Lewis Turner replacing him and the youngster nearly got on the end of a cross from Moore, but Danny Wray headed behind.
Quakers levelled on 75 minutes when Moore picked the ball up on the left, played a one-two with Johnson, and stroked the ball past Spence.
RCA weathered the storm and nearly snatched victory when Home-Jackson found a yard of space inside the box, but blazed wide.
Darlington missed a chance when Spence fumbled Moore's shot, but Johnson slammed the rebound against the bar.
But Quakers got their noses in front five minutes into the second period of extra time when Moore pulled the ball back and Johnson slid the ball home from close range, and a few minutes later Jordan Robinson got the reward for his efforts when he managed to turn in the third.
Gray was pleased with Fisher's display, saying: "Nathan showed plenty of good movement and created chances through his own good play. We took him off after an hour, because he hasn't played for ages. He was always a threat.
"I thought we should have put the game to bed after an hour with all the chances we had, but there were still some good performances from the young lads in the team."
Goals: Home-Jackson (44, 0-1); Moore (75, 1-1), Johnson (110, 2-1), Turner (115 mins, 3-1)
Darlington: Jameson, Pilatos, Galbraith, J Robinson, Mitchell (Cocks 54), Davis, Moore, Thomas (O'Connor), Johnson, Fisher (Turner 60), P Robinson. Subs (not used): Williamson, Lovegreen
Sunderland RCA: Spence, Aaron Brown, Horsman, Wray, Clough, Wilson (Andrew Brown 75), Home-Jackson, Stanger (sub Jury 90), Barton (Hassan 60), Patton, Morris. Subs (not used): Preston, Fryatt
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