Relegated Notts stumble at Stourport

North Notts went into Saturday’s penultimate game of the season at Stourport already knowing that last week’s controversial defeat against Stone had condemned them to relegation.

Tuesday, 25th March 2014, 6:00 am

So, with the influential figures of Adam Moss and William Butler missing from the line-up, it was always going to be a difficult task to motivate the side against a Stourport side that boasted an ex-Great Britain international in their ranks as Notts crashed 4-1.

After a heavy downpour prior to the start of the game, Notts were confident they could use the pace of the pitch to expose the Stourport defence.

Unfortunately it didn’t go as planned as it was Stourport who were quick off the blocks and caught Notts napping.

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Within a minute Notts were forced to rely on skipper Unwin in goal to produce a good save.

Two minutes later Notts were a goal down when a break on the left saw the winger coolly get to the by-line and cross the ball for a simple tap-in.

Notts were still struggling to get to grips with their own game but were also finding that aerial balls were not being coped with by the Stourport defence on the bouncy pitch.

From such a pass, Nathan Smith was able to twist and turn the Stourport defence inside out and win a penalty corner, from which Notts made no mistake, with Allen Butler coolly firing home to leave the scores level on six minutes.

However, Notts’ brief fightback only lasted six minutes as Stourport again took the lead on 12 minutes and then increased it to 3-1 on 25 minutes.

As Notts’ heads dropped slightly so did Stourport’s discipline and Notts were able to settle and find a good spell of hockey with Allen Butler almost pulling a goal back after good work from Josh Singleton.

The half-time whistle was blown just as Stourport won a penalty corner, but the speed out off the line of Anthony Clay meant that it was easily dealt with.

At the break Notts changed personnel round and centre back Matthew Kanalass moved into a more central midfield position which looked like it may pay dividends for Notts.

However, after several chances and Stourport losing a player for 10 minutes due to petulance, a breakthrough was never found.

Stourport’s robust tackling continued to frustrate Notts and midfielder Barton was dismissed for trying to dish out his own retribution after being on the end of a cynical challenge a few minutes prior.

With five minutes remaining Stourport rubbed salt into the wounds by winning a penalty stroke, which was converted to leave Notts defeated 4-1 in their final away game of the season.

Manager Jay Faulkner said: “Today has to be one of the few times this season where we didn’t do ourselves justice.

“From the opening minutes we never got to grips with Stourport’s hard tackling.

“To be honest I think last week’s defeat was still on our minds. Despite a decent flurry of chances just after half-time we never looked like getting a result, which is a shame because they were very beatable.

“We will regroup and go all out to finish the season off in a positive light next week when we entertain Wolverhampton at Manor with a full squad.”

The following day Notts host a prestigious friendly game against England Masters, which is the over-40s international team.

They are currently in the process of selecting the squad and hopefuls will line up against North Notts’ first X1 at Olton and West Warwick’s ground.

England are currently the World Champions and are due to compete in the next World Cup in Holland in June.

“This will be a great experience for our first X1 Squad and we are really looking forward to pitting our skills against the World Champions,” said Faulkner.