Hockey: Derby defeat leaves North Stafford sweating over promotion
NORTH Stafford's Midlands One promotion hopes suffered a setback after a 3-2 defeat at Stone.
The surprise result eased Stone's relegation fears, but left North Stafford's fate out of their hands with two matches of the season remaining.
The Newcastle-based club dropped to third place, albeit level on points with Worcester in second.
However, Worcester's superior goal difference has left them in the driving seat to join champions Nottingham University in Midlands Premier Division next season.
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North Stafford started brightly and dominated possession and territory in the early stages.
But they were unable to convert their superiority into goals, and soon found themselves behind.
Stone, having weathered the early storm, broke clear for Jon Allchin to fire past Andy Moore.
It didn't take long for parity to be restored, however, with Aaron Sherwani producing a clinical finish from a well-worked penalty corner routine.
Allchin grabbed his second of the game to put Stone back in front, but the sides retreated for the half-time interval all-square again following Amaan Merali's strike.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the opening period with North Stafford pressing for a crucial winner.
They were awarded 15 penalty corners, but failed to make them count thanks to some poor finishing and resolute defending by the home side.
And the sucker-punch duly arrived in the closing stages when Matt Holmes found his way through the North Stafford defence to slot past Moore.
North Stafford wrap up their campaign with a home encounter against Streetly on Saturday, followed by a trip to Warwick on March 23.
Worcester visit Warwick this weekend and then make the trip to Wolverhampton the following Saturday.
Nottingham University sealed the title thanks to an 8-4 victory at mid-table Burton.
Stone, meanwhile, require a point from their last two matches – against second-from-bottom Kings Heath Pickwick and Melton – to mathematically secure their status for next season.
STAFFORD moved two points clear of the West Midlands One drop zone following an impressive 3-2 home victory over mid-table Solihull Blossomfield.
Ben Hollands, Adam Kyle and Andy Peatfield were on target for Stafford, with Marcus Bowen and Paul Russell replying.
BARLASTON endured double despair from their weekend double-header in West Midlands Two.
They were thumped 6-0 at leaders Bromsgrove on Saturday, before losing 4-1 at home to West Brom 24 hours later.
Barlaston had, in fact, acquitted themselves well in the first half at Bromsgrove with a sterling defensive display.
Chances were at a premium from an attacking perspective, but the champions-elect had to wait until just before the break to open the scoring after a defensive lapse from skipper Richard Lewis.
Bromsgrove pressure gradually increased in the second half, and the floodgates soon opened.
Two quick-fire goals put the result beyond doubt, and despite heroics from keeper Chris Amison, Barlaston shipped three more before full-time.
Barlaston fared little better on Sunday back at headquarters when they took on West Brom.
Two short corners undid the home side in the opening half, and another couple of strikes after the break ensured the destination of the points.
Tom Pilling grabbed a late consolation for Barlaston, with the aid of a deflection off a West Brom defender, to score his first senior goal.