THREE goals in as many minutes midway through the second half effectively gave Wearside League title contenders Stockton Town victory over Richmond Town last Saturday.

For the first 25 minutes, Richmond more than held their own, with some delightful passing football creating chances for Scott Ryan, Ben Darville, Mike Layfield and Adam Emson. But the Stockton defence held firm and always looked dangerous on the break, especially when top scorer Kallum Hannah had any sight of goal.

And it was Hannah who, on the half hour, notched up his 40th goal of the season from the penalty spot to give Stockton the lead and the Dalesmen struggled from then on.

By half-time the hosts had doubled their advantage after Scott Meehan’s cross from the by-line found Jimmy Ward, whose shot bounced just over the line off the underside of the crossbar.

Richmond got a goal back just after the hour when Scott Guy met Ryan’s cross and steered his header past Michael Arthur in the Stockton goal.

For a few minutes, the visitors seemed to have recovered the composure they’d lost when they first went behind.

But any hopes of a comeback were crushed when Stockton suddenly came to life in the 70th minute, and in three attacks the hosts scored three further goals.

First up it was Ward with his second, this time finding a way through a crowded penalty area with a right-foot shot, then Stephen Roberts rose above the Richmond defence to head Stockton’s fourth. On 74 minutes, Matthew Garbutt prodded home to make it 5-1.

Two minutes later, Layfield got one back for the visitors with a well-taken goal from 15 yards, but again Stockton came back and in the 80th minute Meehan got his name on the score-sheet as his corner curled straight into the net.

With five minutes left Richmond goalkeeper Adam Cunningham made a point- blank save to save further blushes and keep the score at 6-2.

With five defenders now on Richmond’s injury list and five games in ten days coming up later this month, it’s going to be a tough ask for the Dalesmen to repeat the third- place finish they achieved last season.

For Stockton Town, there is still every chance of them holding on to their league title, although they may need to beat leaders Ryhope when the top two meet on April 19.