No points from a winnable fixture was a disappointment, but does not put Stops in immediate danger of relegation. The crucial game is still the match against Nottingham on 17th March. Nevertheless, Saturday’s failure to pick up points does not help the campaign however one reflects upon it.
As the score shows it was a close fought encounter. Newcastle took an early 2-0 lead before Stops recovered to go into quarter-time 3-2 down.
The defence played an excellent game throughout with good communication and well timed cover, preventing Newcastle from scoring again until the final quarter. Andy Hancock put in a sound performance, thwarting the opposition on many occasions and repeatedly being instrumental in clearing the ball.
Shortly after the start of the final 20 minutes, failure to get the ball clear from the crease area let Newcastle back into the game with an unfortunate goal. The north-easterners went on to take a two goal lead with only a few minutes remaining. Stops managed to pull back a goal, but Newcastle then ran down the clock as they hung on to possession.
Peter Hibbert with three goals from the midfield was Stops’ leading scorer. Neil Catto grabbed the other two, but, overall, a combination of sound Newcastle goalkeeping and an attacking performance that did not live up to Stops’ known abilities produced a goal tally that is rarely enough to win a match.
It is fair to record that injury and absence did not help Stops’ cause. Captain Andrew Withington spent the afternoon encouraging from the sideline following an injury sustained the previous week. Norman Woodside left the field at half-time following an injury shortly before, and Phil Hall and Chris Sullivan both had commitments making them unavailable. Even Peter Hibbert took a blow to the ribs that must have reduced his effectiveness. A full strength team would almost certainly have produced a different outcome, but there are no points for what might have been.