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Northern Mens League

Report by: Martin Cunnane

10th July 1999 - Thornes Park, Wakefield

A solid all-round team effort in the penultimate North of England Men's League Division 1 match at Thornes Park Stadium gained Wakefield Harriers second spot - and a relegation lifeline.

Wakefield, who have struggled throughout the season due to a shortage of performers, started the day five points adrift at the bottom of the first division table.

The Harriers had collected just two points from their previous two last place finishes -and their much-improved showing, which earned them an invaluable seven points, saw them end the day in seventh place in the table. Wakefield moved above Rotherham on individual points count-back and are now only one point behind Bolton and first division survival.

Wakefield's fightback was headed by senior sprinter Chris Bedford who turned out for the vital match despite suffering from career-threatening knee problems.

And he showed his undoubted ability by pulverising the opposition in the B sprints powering to an impressive B-string double in respective times of 11.2 and 22.2 secs. He won both the 100 and 200 by clear margins.

Sixteen-year-old Matt Young stepped into the A 200m and again showed his potential by clocking a pb 23.1 secs to finish a highly respectable sixth behind Mandale's Paul Campbell, who gained a narrow victory in 22.4 secs.

Young also ran a storming first leg in the 4xl00m relay, handing over with a metre lead which helped Wakefield secure fourth place points in a combined time of 45.1 secs, no mean achievement in the knowledge that besides Bedford the other two relay members were middle distance runner Darren Spawforth and junior hammer thrower Robert Taylor.

University student Craig Heppenstall also showed great improvement in the A 800m, stepping up on past form to record a pb 1 min 56.8 secs to finish second behind Cleethorpes' Simon Saxby, who claimed maximum points in 1 min 53.4 secs.

Heppenstall increased his points contribution with sixth place in the A 1500m and fourth in the B pole vault before ending a productive day with a leg in the 4x400m relay, assisting Spawforth, Mark Ainsworth and Bedford to third place at the finish in a combined 3 mins 24.5 secs behind Cleethorpes, who won in 3 mins 22.5 secs.

Besides running legs in both relays, Spawforth had earlier stepped down from his favoured middle distances to the 400m where he beat all but long sprint specialist Robin Hinch of Cleethorpes in the B event, eventually finishing eight tenths of a second runner-up in 51 secs flat. Spawforth continues to make steady progress in his quest for fitness after a winter of injury problems.

Steve Lowe made a belated seasonal debut and, despite being without training for six months, advertised his undoubted talent by finishing third in the B 800m in 1 min 58.6 secs as well as scoring a brace of points in the B long jump where he finished seventh.

Another athlete turning out after an 18 month gap was Chris Carlton who supplied points from a well-deserved victory in the B shot, earned with an 11.19m putt, and third place in the B javelin. And he could be a useful addition to the squad in Wakefield's battle for first division survival.

Junior all-rounder Chris Hughff provided a bunch of valuable points earned with a win in the B 1 10m hurdles, fifth place in the A javelin, second in the B triple jump and third in the A high jump. He also looks like playing a major part in the Harriers fight to avoid the drop.

Paul Sutcliffe weighed in with a maximum from the B hammer as well as finishing a respectable third in the A discus.

And former top junior thrower Louis Hodgson turned out for the first time in three years and surprised everyone by collecting maximum points in the B discus competition.

Acting team manager Matt Gillard was unable to perform on the track through injury, but he did his bit, earning second-place points in the A shot putt finishing 53cm behind Leeds City's Matthew Allinson, who won with his day's best effort of 12.22m.

Junior thrower Rob Taylor only had English Schools U20 champ' Ross Thompson of Gateshead in front of him in the A hammer, claiming second-place points with his day's best throw of 46.17m.

And former Welsh international long jumper Gary Slade finished second in the A triple jump, third in the A long jump and seventh in the B high jump.

Other team members were: lan Howie, Steve Thorpe, Mark Ainsworth, Andy Johnson, Joe Schofield, Steve Tibbs, Rob Urquhart, James Lloyd, Pat McTigue.

Final match score: 1st Cleethorpes 396; 2nd Wakefield 358; 3rd Mandale 333.5; 4th Hull 314.5; 5th Leeds City 313; 6th Bolton 288; 7th Rotherham 248; 8th Gateshead 243.