Another shortage of fit & available players meant another re-shuffle in the Albion line up which featured Sunderland academy signing Greg Purvis making his debut in goal.
On a chilly night on Teesside the opening exchanges set the trend for the whole of the first half, both sides playing clever passing football but with no real end product. Purvis was called into action as early as the 2nd minute following a shot from Richard Walker, but it was a very comfortable gather for the debutant. Thornaby’s Daniel Lofts put an effort wide on 8 minutes, but a move from the visitors five minutes later carried more threat. Josh Holland playing in an unfamiliar centre forward role, took the ball wide & fired in a dangerous looking cross which was a fraction too high for Phil Hodges’ head with just Thornaby keeper Michael Duff to beat.
At the other end Lofts was making a nuisance of himself & on 14 minutes he thought he’d created a good chance when darting deep into the Ryton box, but a combination of Callum Turnbull & Liam Barker manfully blocked his close range effort. It was this kind of defending that epitomised the game as both rearguards were snuffing out danger & protecting their keepers efficiently.
Forwards were being restricted to half chances from distance, Lofts & Nathan Porritt both off target for the hosts, but on 24 minutes Thornaby did create a clear cut chance. Porritt, who was becoming Albion’s chief antagonist lofted a free kick on to the head of Curtis Edwards, but his effort was saved by Purvis.
Neither goal was threatened again until the 41st minute when Porritt managed to drill in a fine cross from the goal-line but fortunately for Albion there was no-one in a blue shirt to get on the end of it & the teams went into the interval Even-Steven.
HT THORNABY 0 RACA 0
Following the fairly close first half, the game switched to a second stage after the break with Thornaby dominating & Ryton with a ‘backs to the wall’ rearguard action. Purvis had to be at his best on 52 minutes when Lofts headed to Porritt who shot from close range only to be thwarted by the RACA keeper’s legs. The former Middlesbrough man was showing his class & proving a headache for Albion who could barely get out of their own half. On 71 minutes Porritt was at it again jinking left & right before firing in a decent shot from well outside the box that Purvis was equal to. A minute later another of his shots was blocked by Jack Stoddart, but PORRITT was to get his breakthrough on 73 minutes when he shot past a crowd of players & the ball slipped past Purvis to finally give Thornaby the lead they deserved.
If the hosts were hoping for an Albion collapse they were to be disappointed as in complete contrast to Saturday at Whickham, the Thornaby goal sparked a positive response & the game went into a third & final stage with Albion taking the game to the Teessiders. Indeed Ryton thought they had equalised on 82 minutes when recent introduction Craig Barker lofted a free kick into the penalty area & Leigh Shickle headed past Duff, but the linesman ruled it off-side to the frustration of the visitors. Still RACA piled on the pressure & Mark McMeekin wasn’t far from his first goal for the club, heading narrowly wide on 83 minutes. With Albion pushing for a leveller they were always going to be more exposed at the back & with 6 minutes to go another fast run down the right wing by Theo Furness resulted in an accurate cross for Thornaby sub Joe Melvin, but he missed his chance to seal the three points by spooning the ball over Purvis’s bar.
As it happens it didn’t matter too much as Albion couldn’t get the equaliser in the remaining minutes & Thornaby kept their second clean sheet in four days.
FT THORNABY 1 RACA 0
A much improved RACA performance but the absence of any recognised strikers is plain to see. Despite the defeat, the management were pleased with the 90 minutes with some excellent defending against a very strong side. While all the team come away with praise, Liam Barker in particular put in an outstanding shift. That level of commitment & attitude of the players will put us in good stead for Saturday’s visit of Birtley Town.
Meanwhile Thornaby impressed throughout & if they can maintain the nucleus of this squad they will surely one of the promotion fancies next season.
THORNABY- Duff, Walker, Horsman, Morrison, Crossen, K Edwards, Furness, McDonald (Clarke 46), Lofts (Melvin 74), C Edwards , Porritt, Subs not used- Bellamy, Alderson, Davies
ALBION- Purvis, Stoddart, Shickle, McMeekin, L Barker, Turnbull, P Robinson, Upperton (Kastrati 59), Holland, Forsyth (C Barker 76), Hodges. Sub not used- Gillespie
REFEREE- Michael Green