DUNSTON UTS manager Billy Irwin wasn’t particularly enamoured with his side’s performance but he was delighted with the result against Staveley MW in the first leg of their FA Carlsberg Vase semi-final.
A goal seven minutes from time gives the Tynesiders the edge when they go to Chesterfield on Saturday.
Irwin said: “I don’t think we played as well as we could have. We improved in the later stages and in the end got a result with a great goal from Andy Bulford.
“It’s now all to play for at their place but we go there with the lead which is important.”
The first half at the UTS Stadium was a midfield battle but Dunston took the game to their opponents during the second 45 minutes.
Dogged defending kept them at bay until Bulford produced something special in the 87th minute.
He had most of the spectators in a bumper crowd of 975 cheering from the rafters when he beat two defenders and crashed an unstoppable left-foot shot into the net off the inside of a post. Sunderland RCA stretched their lead at the top of the STL Northern League First Division to six points with a comprehensive victory at Norton and Stockton Ancients where Mark Davison (2) and Joe Walton were the scorers.
Spennymoor Town moved into second place and although six points adrift of RCA, have three games in hand on the Wearsiders. Craig Ruddy scored the only goal at Newton Aycliffe .
With Stokesley SC already relegated, a number of sides are battling against joining them in Division Two next season.
Tow Law Town’s hopes of avoiding the drop faded when they went down to Billingham Town in a crucial bottom-six clash.
The Lawyers made a dream start as Andrew Thompson struck twice in the opening half hour but for the second consecutive game the Teessiders erased a two-goal deficit.
Christian Selby cut the arrears and David Onions equalised. With time running out a draw looked the likely result but in added time, Onions was again on target to ease his side’s relegation fears and compound those of the Lawyers.
Jarrow Roofing , who have played more games than any of the other sides in the drop zone, went down to Whitley Bay for whom Paul Robinson scored with 14 minutes left on the clock.
Penrith are fourth-from-the-basement by virtue of having a better goal difference than Jarrow Roofing.
Their cause wasn’t helped with a defeat at Billingham Synthonia whose marksmen were Chris Emms, Jamie Blyth and Danny Newby. Grant Davidson claimed a late consolation for the Cumbrians.
Consett are another side struggling after losing to Ashington for whom Marc Walton scored twice in the opening 35 minutes. Although Jack Stanger replied, the Steelmen were unable to produce an equaliser.
Until recently, Team Northumbria were odds-on favourites to clinch the Second Division championship. Now, their position is vulnerable. Hebburn Town are just three points behind the leaders with a game in hand after they romped to victory at home to Whickham with goals by Liam McBryde (2), Paul Gardiner and Stephen Foster.
Team could only draw with West Allotment Celtic whose goalkeeper Aidan Ames made a number of good saves to keep his goal intact.
Morpeth Town are third and they too conceded a couple of points to Gillford Park for whom Dean Douglas cancelled out Steven Anderson’s strike.
Darlington RA are up to fourth after emphatically defeating seventh-top Esh Winning . Stephen Cheeseman (2), Jimmy Moore, Stephen Allison and Freddie Huscroft all beat Esh goalkeeper Carl Morris.
Birtley Town are also in the promotion mix and an only goal by John Martin proved pivotal against Horden CW .