Ryhope CW fell to a 3-1 defeat away to Stockton Town in a mid-table Northern League Division One battle.

Jamie Owens gave Stockton the lead in the 10th minute before Kevin Hayes added a second in the 67th.

Matty Weirs gave Ryhope a fighting chance in the 74th minute but Max Craggs restored the two goal lead with ten minutes to go to put the game beyond doubt.

The game was Ryhope’s first for three weeks, as they had both of their last two called off. There were two new signings to chose from for Colliery Welfare with midfielders Paul Braithwaite and Jake Winship available for the first time.

Ryhope got out of the gates quickly, first Braithwaite got down the left in the 7th minute and cut in on his right, only for his deflected shot to go out for a corner.

Then Corey Nicholson looked to get onto a ball spilled by Liam Jordan, but the ‘keeper recovered in time.

Stockton got up the other side of the pitch and broke the deadlock with their first chance of the game.

Dale Mulligan’s header from a corner was blocked by a Ryhope defender, but it fell at the feet of Owens to tap home from close range.

The game fell flat for a long period of the first half, James Ellis tested the keeper a couple of times but there were few clear cut opportunities for either side.

Kyle Davis had a good chance when he was found in the box by Weirs, he controlled the ball before striking but Jordan was equal to it.

The first clear cut chance of the second half came through Stockton’s Fred Woodhouse whose shot from inside the box beat Jonny Ball in the Ryhope goal, but Danni Lay slid in and managed to put the ball over the bar before it crossed the line.

Colliery Welfare searched for the equaliser and almost got in when Weirs broke inside the box from the left, he cut in on his right and released a shot but Jordan made the save.

Then came an end-to-end few minutes. In the 64th minute, Hayes was found free at the back post and shot from close range forcing a great reflex save from ball.

Ryhope countered, Davis and Weirs exchanged passes outside the box before finding Braithwaite in the box behind the defence, he delayed the shot and Jordan smothered.

Stockton got back down the field and in a carbon copy chance to the one only a couple of minutes earlier, Hayes was found from the left and this time made no mistake in firing past Ball at the back post.

Weirs pulled Ryhope a goal back in the 74th minute, cutting onto his right foot in the box and firing through a defenders legs and into the bottom left corner.

But Stockton restored their two goal lead only seven minutes later through a spectacular free kick from Craggs, around 20 yards out curling into the top left corner.

There was time before the end for Lay to pick up his third red card of the season, although he can feel slightly hard done by on this incident having been adjudged to have prevented a clear goal-scoring opportunity despite the attacker not having full control of the ball just outside the box.

Ryhope manager Gary Pearson was relatively pleased with the performance despite the scoreline: “3-1 looks as if they’ve really nailed us, I don’t think that was the case.

“I was really disappointed with the first goal. We’ve got a lot of big, strong centre-halves and midfielders so we shouldn’t be conceding too easily from a cross into the box.

“I think we were the better side leading up to the half-time mark although we went 1-0 down, I still thought they’d done really well.”

Pearson did believe the artificial pitch may have had a bearing on the game, saying: “It was a 4G pitch, we’re not used to that. It’s played at a different pace and forces a lot of players into doing things they wouldn’t usually do.

“They’re under pressure thinking they need to be a passing side and don’t do what they do best.”

Ryhope once again were left to rue missed chances, the manager adding: “We should have been at 1-1. Paul should have scored. Then they got down the other end and we ended up 2-0 down.

“Our goal was a great bit of movement and a great finish from Matty.

“We shouldn’t have been beaten by two goals, but we were. A draw would have been a fair result but we didn’t take our chances.”

Pearson also pinpointed the performance of captain Kyle Davis as a positive from the game, saying: “I thought he led brilliantly and tried to make something happen.”

Ryhope now head into a home game against Whitley Bay next week in the week. That’s if it doesn’t get called off like the previous two home games. They will hope for a much better game than the reverse fixture to get back on track.