Hartlepool United Ladies saw their winning run come to an end on Wednesday night when they were beaten by rivals Norton & Stockton Ancients at Station Road.
Andy Stuart’s team went in to the contest on the back of six straight wins and sitting second in the North East Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division, one place above their hosts.
However, they suffered an almighty setback inside thirty seconds when a defensive mix-up allowed Norton’s top scorer Nyci Thorns to open the scoring and hand the home side an early lead.
Pools recovered their composure extremely quickly though and were the better side for much of the first half, knocking the ball around with confidence and creating numerous opportunities to equalise.
Caitlin Bates lashed an effort wide from the edge of the box after Norton failed to fully clear a corner, while the in-form forward also grazed the post with another effort after good work from Sarah Bartlett.
Right on half time another Bates shot was well saved by the home keeper who then set-up a lightning fast counter-attack but this time Thorns struck her shot too high.
Pools continued to make most of the running in the early stages of the second half with the home side wasteful in possession and often forced to go direct to try and cause Pools problems.
Jenny Duffy-Smith brought another save from the Norton keeper after a wonderful run from Faye Garside down the left before Sarah Rowbotham headed over at the far post from the resultant corner.
Bates almost got in over the top but was forced wide, while Thorns was a constant threat on the counter and fired a warning shot just over the bar.
Midway through the second half Norton grabbed a decisive second goal when Thorns was played through on the left and produced a skilful finish past the on-rushing Becca Smith to make it 2-0.
The Norton keeper was forced in to action minutes later when Bates produced a wonderful turn and shot which was arrowing in to the top corner before it was finger-tipped round the post.
The hosts made the game safe on 73 minutes when Amy Cowan was adjudged to have fouled Thorns in the box and the forward got to her feet to convert from the spot and complete her hat-trick.
Pools were piling forward in an attempt to get back in to the game and were caught on the break with eleven minutes left when Shannon Reed raced through to make it 4-0.
There was another chance for Bates to get on the scoresheet late on but again the keeper came out on top after the Pools forward had barged her way through on goal.
“We didn’t stick to what we had discussed," Stuart admitted afterwards.
“I thought it was quite a scrappy game and there wasn’t four goals in it but we wanted to be physical and get in their faces – but we weren’t, we were second to the ball all night so we got what we deserved.
“We had chances to score, probably five or six good ones, and we’ve not taken them which has been one of our downfalls this season.
“We’re obviously disappointed not just because the winning run has come to an end but because we didn’t play the way we can.”
Full Time: Norton & Stockton Ancients Ladies 4 Hartlepool United Ladies 0
Pools: Smith, Cowan (Hurrell 89), Stuart, Robinson, Garside, Duffy-Smith, Bartlett (Hurrell 29 (Hammond-Garrington 89)), Rowbotham, Basnett (Rackstraw 61), Bates, Pye (Lambert 68).