Alnwick Town’s survival bid was dealt a bitter blow on Saturday, as they crashed to a 4-0 defeat at relegation rivals Stokesley Sports Club.
A Ross Hodgson hat-trick and a Gary Redman goal gave second-bottom Stokesley a vital victory in this basement battle, as the hosts moved nine points clear of Town in Northern League Division Two.
The loss would no doubt have hurt this bottom-of-the-table Alnwick side who are searching for their first league win since September.
If the St James’ Park side are to escape the Division Two trap door, it’s imperative they pick up points from games against the teams around them.
Saturday’s clash at Stokesley was a good chance for Town to grab their second league win of the season.
But Redman and three-goal hero Hodgson put paid to that, and the North Yorkshire strugglers opened up a healthy gap over Town and moved to within a point of Horden CW, who are outside the relegation zone.
Reflecting on the defeat, Alnwick Town boss Paul Yeadon said: “We didn’t play well on the day. It was a big game, and we had out chances, but we just didn’t perform and we were disappointed with that.”
Town did have their opportunities.
In the first half, Tom Vickers shot wide while Daniel Thompson and Wyn Fremlin forced good saves from Graeme Willey.
But the visitors found themselves one down with 10 minutes of the first period remaining. Hodgson grabbed the first of his three goals by converting from the penalty spot following a handball in the area.
Chris Bivens could have put the hosts two to the good, but for a fine save from Brian Brooks in the Town goal.
Alnwick could have levelled just before the break, only for Thompson to see his shot hit the post.
The Northumbrians were left to rue their missed chances.
Even in the second half, Town had a number of efforts, including a Fremlin shot which skimmed the bar. But Stokesley were clinical and made sure of three crucial points by netting three times after the break.
Hodgson headed in his second on 51 minutes before Redman’s low shot found the net just after the hour. Ten minutes later, Hodgson completed his hat-trick to put his side 4-0 up. It rounded-off a bad day at the office for Town.
Alnwick: Brooks, Lowes, Catlow (Moffat), Elliott (Hills), McPherson, Murray (Captain), Brown, Vickers, Thompson, Fremlin, Hogg (Makin). Sub Jackson.
Alnwick are away to Whickham on Saturday, kick-off 3pm, before travelling to South Shields on Tuesday (kick-off 7.30pm) in the second round of the league cup.