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Hockey: Olton sprinting in pursuit of Premier rewards.

Byline: Paul Raymer

Olton put themselves back in the frame for a top-three finish in the women's National League this season with two Premier Division victories at the weekend, one of them at the expense of struggling Sutton Coldfield.

They moved up to fourth on Sunday with a 4-0 home defeat of Doncaster which was good news for local rivals Sutton, who share bottom spot with the Yorkshire side. However, 24 hours earlier, Olton had defeated Sutton 4-3 while Doncaster recorded their second win of the season.

Mandy Gatherer and Helen Grant, just back from England's gold medal triumph in the Champions Challenge tournament in South Africa, both scored twice for Olton in the second half.

Both players were also on the secondhalf scoresheet in the local derby match at Sutton where the home side valiantly fought back from 1-4 down and scored their third goal four minutes from time. Rachel Walker and Lucilla Wright, who scored the goal that won the gold medal for England, put Olton 2-0 up by half-time and Sutton hit back through Jane Sixsmith, Liz Perry and Helen Whalley.

On Sunday, Sutton gained only their second win of the season beating Ipswich 2-1 with goals by Kate Thomas and Helen Morris, after having trailed to a penalty goal in the tenth minute. Fyffes Leicester's two victories at the weekend put them level on points at the top with Slough, who have a game in hand. Aldridge's fears of losing their place in the National League were eased slightly on Saturday after they scored two late goals through Jenny Ladley and Liz Keating to beat Poynton 2-0 and climb three places off the bottom of Division Two.

Bournville's hopes of promotion to the men's National League Premier Division next season were given a jolt in the topof-the-table clash away to leaders St Albans. Despite leading 2-1 with ten minutes remaining, they were hit by Ian Hammond's hat-trick inside eight minutes and lost 4-2.

Although trailing 1-0 at the interval, Bournville gained the short-lived initiative with two goals in five minutes in the last quarter of the match, through Christian Battye and a penalty-stroke goal by Simon McCollum.

The Birmingham side slipped to third place, five points behind St Albans and a point behind Doncaster, who inflicted Stourport's fourth successive defeat, a 4-2 reverse which puts the Worcestershire side into the relegation zone for the first time. Stourport's late consolation goals came from Jon Willicombe and Shilen Tanna.

Barford Tigers are now only one point behind Stourport after their 1-1 draw at Brooklands. The goalscoring came in a one-minute period in the second half with Jimmy Singh scoring for the Tigers following a penalty corner and the home side equalising immediately.

Cannock suffered their first defeat in the Premier Division League Cup, losing 3-2 to top-of-the-table Surbiton. Four of the goals came in a frantic final nine minutes during which Simon Organ and Matt Taylor netted for Cannock. Four of the six teams in the competition are on four points, five behind the leaders.

The Midlands' most prolific goalscorer is likely to be James Wright, who scored his eighth DTZ League hat-trick of the season in Harborne's 3-3 top-of-the-table draw with Leek on Saturday.

Wright, who now has 40 goals this season, led the league leaders to a 3-1 lead with three goals in 14 minutes, but Harborne then allowed title challengers Leek to strike back with goals from Ben Darlington and Dave Wright.

Harborne captain Paul Coney said: 'We are disappointed at giving away a 3-1 lead. If we had won, it would give us an easier run-in to hopefully winning the title, but Leek still have to play thirdplaced Coventry.'

Lichfield's chances of staying in the Premier Division waned further as Coventry thrashed them 7-1. Edgbaston have clawed their way out of relegation danger and are now just below mid-table following another win, 3-2 against Hampton in Arden.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 26, 2002
Words:653
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