North Notts face the drop after Stone controversy

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North Notts Hockey Club’s season was to all ends left in tatters on Saturday as Stone grabbed a last gasp winner for a controversial 4-3 success which will probably be enough to send the Manor Park side down.

Notts Manager Jay Faulkner said: “We knew survival was a long shot before the game, but we feel we approached it as we have every game this season and again were left cursing our bad luck.

“We will continue to build for the future and hope to add some new younger players into our first and second X1s for next season.

“At the moment we have six points left to battle for and, with a major re-structure of the league next season, we don’t know what the future holds.

“But we will continue to see out the season with the same positive attitude we began it with.”

North Notts began the game on the back foot as Stone hit them apace in the opening minutes.

A shot fired wide and a penalty corner in the first five minutes had Notts dizzy and only a great tackle from Matthew Kanalas at the heart of defence saved a further potential goal a minute later.

Paul Unwin then pulled off short corner saves on 10 and 11 minutes as Notts had their backs well and truly to the wall.

After sustained pressure from Stone, Notts managed to release flying wing back Anthony Clay who drove the ball into the D, which flew into the goal off a Stone defender’s stick to give Notts a 1-0 lead against the run of play on 14 minutes.

Notts were now finding their groove and top goal scorer Allen Butler came close on 15 and 18 minutes, but was denied by a strong opposition goalkeeper.

The game was now end to end with Notts holding the slight advantage and on 30 minutes Anthony Clay again drove towards the opposition’s D and produced a carbon copy of the first goal to leave Notts 2-0 up.

Captain Unwin in the Notts goal then produced two further saves as it looked like Notts would go in at half-time two goals to the good, but Stone produced a slick short corner routine to pull a goal back.

The half-time words from manager Faulkner were to remain calm and not get rattled by some of the decisions that seemed to be going against Notts.

The second half started as the first finished with fast end to end flowing hockey.

For 15 minutes both teams forced saves from their respective keepers, but Notts were now starting to look vulnerable at the back to Stone’s pacey forwards.

On 52 minutes Notts had the ball in the Stone D, but were unable to get a shot away.

From the resulting breakaway Stone caught Notts asleep at the back and equalised.

Stone’s delight only lasted five minutes before Notts were back in the lead from the goal of the game.

Allen Butler received the ball on the right hand side of the D and seemed to have an eternity to line up his strike, the South African making no mistake, drilling the over the keeper’s right shoulder high into the top corner.

Controversy then took over as the Notts forwards were making their way back to the halfway line for the re-start.

Stone took the centre with Notts players still in the opposition half and a Stone player 10 yards in the Notts half.

A pass found the Stone player who was encroaching in the Notts half who raced towards the Notts goal and slipped a pass to his team mate who slotted the ball home.

Notts were clearly frustrated and vented their anger, Jason Barton’s remonstrations clearly not impressing the umpires who issued a yellow card, leaving Notts down to 10 men for a minimum of five minutes.

Seeing their chance Stone upped the pace and barraged Notts with attacking play.

Notts, however, continued to sporadically create chances on the break, but were again punished when an attack didn’t produce a shot in the dying minutes.

A minute later Stone broke away again and, from a good Unwin save, the umpire deemed a foul had been committed by the Notts captain.

Stone again produced a good short corner move which was slipped left and converted by the forward to break Notts hearts and leave them 4-3 down. With a minute remaining Notts threw everything forward but the goal they required was just not there.