SUNDERLAND Broom firsts hit four goals on the road for the first time this season, but a fourth successive win in the North East League’s Premier Division just eluded the Wearsiders.
Fresh from stirring victories over Wilton, Newcastle University thirds and Jesmond Parish Church, the Ashbrooke side were looking to climb to eighth place, but Stockton seconds had the edge in a nine-goal thriller, squeezing home 5-4.
The Wearsiders, though, played very well at times and will hope for better luck when they host mid-table Durham University fourths at Sandhill View on Saturday.
Sunderland started confidently, but they were wasteful with penalty corners before finally breaking the deadlock when Andy Brown scored from close range after a good right-wing move.
Ant Dixon soon slipped his marker to beat the keeper from a tight angle for a 2-0 lead. Sunderland defended well, but a slight loss of concentration proved costly right on half-time, as Stockton pulled one back.
The Teessiders levelled after a goalmouth scramble then stormed 4-2 ahead thanks to two well-worked penalty corners.
It looked bleak for Sunderland, but a magnificent goal-line clearance by captain Sam Evans helped rally the Wearsiders, and a series of penalty corners had the home side opn the back foot.
Neale Holmes got the score back to 4-3 with a tremendous reverse stick strike after a mazy, solo run.
Dramatically, Sunderland equalised from a penalty corner, with Toby Stock smashing home, but the Wearsiders did not maintain the momentum they had built up and Stockton capitalised, with a defensive lapse pivotal in the hosts’ winner. Sunderland laid siege to Stockton’s D in the closing stages, but another equaliser eluded them.
Sunderland seconds remain at the bottom in Intermediate 2, after going down 5-0 to a youthful Richmond seconds.
The Ashbrooke side battled throughout but rued their finishing. Young keeper James Angus made a series of fine saves for Sunderland, with midfielders McCully and Stubbs making their presence felt and Paul Baldesera impressing down the right.
The seconds visit third-top Redcar firsts, who beat them 3-0 on the opening day of the season, this Saturday.
H Durham University firsts, in the Pensions England Hockey League’s Conference North, ended the first half of the season in fine style, routing Wakefield 6-1 at Maiden Castle.
Matthew Murphy’s penalty corner and a Jack Curd strike had Durham two up in 18 minutes, but Greg Moorhouse halved the deficit by the break.
Tom Batchelor’s strike three minutes into the second period settled the issue, with Adam Miller’s penalty corner making it four. Murphy and Sam Driver completed the scoring.
They do not return to action until February 8, when the students face a crunch clash with leaders Brooklands Manchester University, who are four points clear of second-top Durham.