Morpeth I 3 Stokesley I 1 North East Hockey League, Premier Division
THE final game of the season for men’s first teams across the region took place on Saturday and Morpeth finished with a home victory.
Although the Longhirst-based outfit were assured of fourth place, they knew that a win would be the ideal way to cap off what had been a very good season.
From the start, it was very evident that it was going to be a competitive game. Both sides played in a similar fashion and were difficult to break down.
The hosts looked to sit off and test the Stokesley attack by having numbers behind the ball.
However, the plan backfired early on as the away side were able to get in between the lines of the Morpeth defence with some neat passing before getting the ball into the D and guiding it into the net.
Morpeth were disappointed as this was a less than ideal start and they knew that they would have to up their game if they were to get back into the match.
A change in tactics saw the home side press Stokesley high up the pitch, which proved to be very effective.
The visitors struggled to get the ball out of their own half as the Morpeth midfield and forward line put them under some serious pressure.
With the home side now firmly on top, they were awarded a number of short-corners but couldn’t find a way to score. They also had some good chances from open play, most notably from Ian Foster, whose shot flashed narrowly wide of the post.
The returning Ross Valentine also caused the away defence some problems with his surging forward runs.
With half-time approaching, Morpeth were awarded a penalty flick. But once again, they were denied as the Stokesley keeper saved the flick from Foster with his glove.
Moments later, the half-time whistle blew and the hosts were left slightly dismayed.
The half time chat from skipper Brown kept the team believing that if they persisted and continued to create chances, then the goals would follow.
The game continued to follow a similar pattern, with the home side enjoying most of the possession and only limiting Stokesley to chances on the break which the back line of Fairbrother, Dye, Holmes, Mulligan and Cook dealt with accordingly.
Then midway through the half, Morpeth finally had their equaliser. Man-of-the-match Ian Kendall was on hand to take the initiative and get the home team back in the game.
There was no doubt that the game was now there for the taking and through sheer hard work and determination, the home side edged themselves in front.
Foster found himself with the ball at his feet and he showed good skill to work into a position before finding the bottom corner of the goal.
Stokesley were well and truly rattled and this showed, with players pointing the finger at each other.
Morpeth kept their composure and a few minutes from full time they were able to seal the victory.
Gareth Mellor collected the ball next to the 23-metre line and played an inch perfect reverse stick pass to the back post, where Kendall was on hand to deflect the ball in for his second of the game.
The game ended with Morpeth coming out 3-1 winners. All in all, a fitting end to a good season for the first team.