Sunderland Strollers go down to the wire to avoid relegation

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SUNDERLAND Strollers have given themselves a glimmer of hope of staying in the Start Fitness North Eastern Harrier League men’s first division after a battling team performance at the penultimate fixture at Alnwick on Saturday.

The yo-yo club finished eighth to beat other relegation candidates Alnwick (ninth) and Elswick (10th) to lift themselves to third-off-bottom of the league table.

With the bottom two clubs to go down, the Ashbrooke club is on 40 points, the same as Elswick, with hosts Alnwick Harriers rooted to the bottom on 44.

Now with one league contest left, at Prudhoe on Saturday, March 24, the Strollers need to beat Elswick to ensure they stay up.

Packing their six counters inside the first 115 finishers, they were steered home by slow pack man Ken Maynard in 39th (41.37), then came the club’s fastest runner on the challenging course in medium pack man, Steve McMahon 49th in 39.34 followed by fellow medium men Nial McArdle 65th (39.55), Tim Allsop 89th, Paul Dunlop 93rd and Gavin Sword ended the scoring in 115th.

Sunderland Harriers failed to make any inroads into challenging for the league title, finishing a disappointing sixth – their second worst performance of the season. But they still remain in third place on 19 points with Morpeth top on 10 and Gateshead second with 11.

The Wearsiders first runner to finish was Mark Hood who continued his quest for full fitness with 13th place, running from the fast pack. He clocked an actual time of 35.12 to finish third fastest of the day behind the Morpeth duo of Lewis Timmins in fourth (33.36) and Peter Newton seventh (33.36). South Shields grand prix leader Luke Adams was 14th (35.15).

Sunderland’s other counters were Craig Isherwood 18th (38.09), Paul Redman 53rd (39.41), Steven Graham 73rd (40.14), George Harden 87th, and Paul Merrison 107th.

Houghton Harriers are on course for promotion from the third division after finishing second to runaway league leaders Tyne Bridge.

The club had veteran Keith Lowery from the slow pack in ninth (39.04) and mediums’ Tom Grey in 45th (39.26).

Sunderland’s Patrick Crombie was Sunderland Harriers only medallist with third place in the under-17s.

Houghton Harriers Alex Brown was tenth from the fast pack in the under-15 boys’.

In the under-11s race, Owen Jackson was fourth, and Rowen James sixth.