Victory sets up a grandstand finish

Morpeth I 3 North Shields I 2

WITH the end of the season fast approaching, nothing less than three points would be acceptable for Morpeth Hockey Club’s men’s first team in this tough derby match at Longhirst.

Luckily, Morpeth were able to call upon their best possible squad to take the challenge to Shields. The game started evenly.

It was clear Morpeth had been working on their short-corners in training as Paul Danecki fired the ball to outside of the post with pin-point accuracy, where Garth Mellor was able to easily finish making it 1-0, a goal straight from the training ground.

For the rest of the first half, Morpeth were able to dominate with Carmichael, Shafiq and Brown controlling the midfield.

The second half started as the first finished, with Morpeth controlling much of the play. They then showed why defending starts at the front man as David Calder was able to steal the ball on the halfway line.

A quick early pass to Valentine let them break quickly and the return pass to Calder put the last defender out of the game. Calder then added to his season’s tally in his final weekend before finishing his season on loan in Fernie, Canada (2-0).

Until this point in the match, Morpeth’s centre-back pairing of Fairbrother and Dye had been showing why they had one of the best defensive records in the league with another master-class performance. However, five minutes of madness from Morpeth allowed the score to be levelled with two Shields goals in quick succession to make the score 2-2.

Despite throwing away a two-goal lead, Morpeth heads didn’t drop. They were able to rise above it as every player pushed themselves to find that final goal.

In a quick break, Brown’s long ball found Dixon on left-wing. He beat the right-back.

On the side-line, they believed the ball had got away from Dixon and was going off the back-line but, with one hand, crossed the ball with his reverse stick towards Danecki. With the keeper beaten, Danecki only had to finish the cross and he did so with a last-ditch dive. An important three points for Morpeth and, based on the performance, they will look to finish the season on a high, assuming they are able to find a suitable replacement for Calder upfront.

Man-of-the-match was Ritchie Brown.

Morpeth I 2 Durham Uni III 3

RIDING the wave of the previous day’s success against fierce local rivals North Shields, the warriors from Morpeth marched into battle against the ever-dominant Durham University third team with stiff legs but high spirits.

From the first whistle, Morpeth were showing the style of play that had secured three points the day before.

The stalemate was broken after 15 minutes when a short-corner was given to the Durham team which was swiftly converted.

Unlike previous games, this early setback did not hamper the Peth spirits but raised the standard even higher and soon enough some well worked attacking play into the Durham ‘D’ resulted in a penalty corner.

A slick injection from Mellor was comfortably controlled by Valentine and was put into the path of a surging Danecki who unleashed a cannon shot into the bottom corner of the goal (1-1).

Further end-to-end play finished off the first half where the strong defensive line of Mulligan, Dye, Fairbrother and Mellor supported by Carmichael, Brown, Mooney and Shafiq from the midfield stopped all but one Durham attack from finding the goal.

Keeper Jackson was, as always, a strong presence between the pipes but unfortunately a quick shot from the Durham forward caught him on the retreat and the ball trickled under his pads.

The second half began in similar fashion, with both teams showing their desire to secure three points and as legs became tired, tempers started to flair from the visitors.

An unfortunate breakaway and goalmouth scramble led to another goal for Durham as the ball was deflected off the shinpad of the defender into the path of their forward who put the ball over the goal-line with a combination of stick and his own leg.

With the clock ticking and legs and lungs screaming, the final 15 minutes saw some of the best spells of play from both sides and a well-worked series of passes from Morpeth resulted in the ball being passed from Dixon to man-of-the-match Valentine who scored his first goal for his new side.