Gulf in league places dismissed

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Morpeth III 2 Sunderland III 3 North East Hockey League, Division Four

MORPETH’S Third XI were once again taking on a team well above them in the league, when they met fourth-placed Sunderland Thirds after another game was lost to an icy pitch the day before (the seventh game lost to snow or ice in the season so far).

However, the relative league positions did not deter Morpeth from setting off with far better interplay than the opposition. So much so, that for the first 15 minutes, Morpeth kept much of the play in the opposition’s half and tested the Sunderland keeper several times with well-placed shots.

Sunderland occasionally threatened with quick breaks with fast forwards, which the experienced Morpeth defence coped with fairly comfortably.

Continued Morpeth pressure then earned them a well-deserved short-corner, which front man Evans smartly converted into the opening goal of the game.

Morpeth going ahead fired up Sunderland and they began to press more frequently. A series of short corners put Morpeth under pressure, which, although successfully contained a number of times, eventually led to an opening goal for the opposition.

Morpeth’s disappointment at letting Sunderland into the game was further compounded when a ball illegally hit a Sunderland foot on the half-way line, which many saw but the umpires didn’t.

Unfortunately, it resulted in several Morpeth players pulling up as they appealed for the non-existent whistle.

Sunderland’s players couldn’t believe their luck and quickly pushed forward and drove the ball through to one of their front men, who gave the Morpeth keeper little chance for 2-1 to Sunderland at half-time but with still everything to play for.

Morpeth began well again in the second half and kept pressing closer and closer to the Sunderland D.

Sunderland were still proving a threat on the break, though, and it was this that lead to a fast upfield ball that found a red shirt who turned and just managed to round the last remaining Morpeth defender and lift the ball over the fast-advancing keeper.

To their credit, Morpeth didn’t drop their heads and continued to play the ball around well and push back the Sunderland team.

Eventually, their efforts were rewarded with a good run from their energetic midfield after a pin-point pass from captain Emery, which then resulted in a well-deserved second goal for Morpeth.

With only 10 minutes to go, Morpeth piled on the pressure and despite three or four short-corners in the dying minutes and several tired legs against an experienced Sunderland side, they just missed out on getting the all-important third goal which would have tied the game and been a fair result overall.

If they had it would have been a bit of a league upset but with last week’s close game against the third top team as well, it shows that Morpeth Thirds are not far off producing the same winning run they put together just before Christmas.

Man-of-the-match: Peter Durance