Kingsley Park, Crawcrook
Albion came from a goal down to snatch a dramatic late victory in their first game at Kingsley Park in almost a year...
RACA 2-1 Heaton Stannington
Debutant Hylton Hub scored a dramatic 96th-minute winner to snatch all three points for Albion and kickstart the 21/22 campaign with a win.
A spot-kick from Dean Holmes gave Heaton Stannington the lead but substitute Joe Thompson clawed one back moments later before teeing off Hub for the winner.
Kingsley Park saw its first competitive fixture for NINE months and it was well worth the wait as both sides served up an exciting contest.
RACA went into the clash unbeaten in three against The Stan but both sides had fresh faces in the dugout, with Dan Iredale taking charge of his first game in Albion colours.
A cagey opening 10 minutes saw neither side grab a foothold on the game, but the first half-chance of the match came when Albion keeper Dan Gladstone beat Liam McBryde to the ball inside the six-yard box.
The home side won a free-kick in a threatening position when Hub was fouled by Leighton Hooper. However, a tame effort followed as Scott Bamborough drilled his effort straight into the wall.
Heaton managed the ball better in the first half as RACA striker Scott Jasper began to look isolated, but they could not turn that possession into any real threat as a sturdy Albion backline looked comfortable when called upon.
The game sprung to life on 37 minutes when Hub got the better of Andrew Burn inside the area and hit the deck following a trip. There were no complaints from the away dugout as the referee pointed straight to the spot.
Skipper Callum Turnbull stepped up but saw his well-placed effort saved by Thomas Flynn, which instantly galvanised the away support in attendance.
The best chance of the half came on the stroke of half-time when Kevin Carr drew a fantastic save from Gladstone. A foot race for the rebound between Dillon Blake and McBryde ensued with the RACA man getting there at the last moment to keep the scores level at the break.
Blake proved to be an omnipresent force in the Albion midfield all afternoon, quietly going about his business in front of the back four and serving as the link between defence and attack.
Both sides upped the tempo in the second half and it was the visitors who should have been in front when Gladstone was forced into a stretch to tip Carr’s deflected effort over the bar.
Tensions began to flare between the dugouts when Heaton’s Jay Hornsby was booked for diving following a collision with Turnbull, with Stan manager Dean Nicholson angered by accusations of simulation.
On the hour mark, Albion had to call upon their goalkeeper again when Gladstone pulled off a fantastic save from point-blank range to deny Carr. The move should have broken the deadlock and RACA could count themselves lucky that the score remained 0-0.
10 minutes from time saw all hell broke loose when a Heaton corner struck the arm of Albion defender Carl Paterson.
After lengthy deliberation between the referee, the players and his assistant, a penalty was awarded, much to the bemusement of the home crowd.
Holmes stepped up and buried home to give The Stan a crucial lead with just eight minutes on the clock.
RACA were also hit with double jeopardy as defender Andrew Brown was forced to spend the majority of the closing stages in the sin bin for contesting the referee’s call.
However, Albion rallied back and substitute Thompson became the hero when he blasted an equaliser in from close range.
Clever link-up play between Louis Anderson and Lee Johnson saw the RACA number 10 put Thompson through. The tricky winger proceeded to smash a left-footed effort home to get Albion back in the game.
An end-to-end battle was on our hands at Kingsley Park and Thompson almost nicked a superb winner when his lofted effort rebounded off the crossbar in the dying embers of the game.
With the result heading for a draw, Albion conjured up one last attack to steal the game from Stannington and take home all three points.
In the 96th-minute, Thompson turned provider as he squared a vicious ball across the face of the Heaton box. Fellow debutant Hub made one last burst into the box as he tucked home from a point-blank position, sending the home crowd into raptures.
Supporters have had to wait almost a year to watch RACA at Kingsley Park but boy, was it worth the wait!
A last-minute winner on the opening day has the Albion faithful dreaming of what could be possible as the season progresses.
Starting XI: Gladstone, Below, Paterson, Brown, Turnbull, Blake, Bamborough, Johnson, Hub, McLeod, Jasper
RACA Fans' Man of the Match: Dillon Blake