Sunderland RCA 3-1 Garforth Town
Emirates exit at the first hurdle...
Once again, it was a case of what might have been for Garforth Town in the FA Cup.
What if we'd have played the whole game with eleven men? What if we'd have been at home? What if we'd have been a little more adventurous going forwards? We can ask these questions all we like; the facts remain the same: Sunderland RCA won the game 3-1, and Garforth are out of the Emirates FA Cup.
Let's start with the turning point of the match. Garforth were drawing 1-1 when goalkeeper Paul Hagreen raced out of his box, bringing down the Sunderland attacker in a wide area. The referee brandished a red card, meaning Town had to play the remaining 47 minutes with ten men.
Until that point, Garforth had been playing well. Defensively they were very organised, and at the other end, they created the first clear cut chance of the game. Some good link up play in the final third led to Dan Coupland having a shot on goal twelve minutes in, but his effort was saved. Ten minutes later, Sunderland had the ball in the back of the net - however, the goal was ruled out for offside.
Garforth took the lead on 25 minutes when Luke Kitson's free kick from a wide area was diverted past the goalkeeper by a Sunderland defender. The Miners defended this lead well for ten minutes, cutting out any Sunderland chances.
The hosts began to grow back into the game though, and a couple of attempts on goal ensued. Hagreen saved a header from a cross, and a free kick went over the bar. On 39 minutes the pressure resulted in an equaliser, as Hagreen was caught off his line and beaten by a looping header from Sunderland striker Colin Larkin.
The sensible thing to do would have been to see out the draw until half time, and Garforth tried to do that, but their job was complicated by Hagreen's error of judgement which led to his sending off. Mitch Hamilton, a key part of Garforth's system, had to make way in order for substitute keeper Steve Weatherill to come on. The sides went in at the break with the score 1-1.
The second half was, in all honesty, far more one-sided, and Sunderland took the lead on 66 minutes as a ball from wide was finished off by Nathan O'Neill in the middle. They began to make use of their one-man advantage, rotating the ball well and dealing with any Garforth attacks with relative ease.
Another good chance came on 74 minutes as a Sunderland player picked out a through ball between Ryan Donoghue and substitute Sam Lingard. The shot that came from the move went wide.
Sunderland's momentum continued and a minute later their player hit the post with a left footed shot. They eventually found their third goal in stoppage time, as Weatherill's throw to Sam Leach put the right midfielder in all sorts of trouble; the Sunderland frontline pounced and Stephen Callen finished the game off.
There were several good individual performances from Garforth players, but there were also costly individual errors which affected the outcome of the game. Things could have been a lot different for Garforth, certainly given the way they played in the first half with eleven men, but they will now have to switch their attention to the league, which gets underway on Wednesday with a trip to Farsley to play Albion Sports.
By Samuel Bannister