RELEGATION-THREATENED Malton & Norton are gearing up for a ‘must-win’ clash with Northern on Saturday after slipping to the brink of the North One East drop zone.

The Ryedale side head into the Gannock fixture (2.15pm kick off) only two points ahead of third from bottom Morpeth in the wake of last weekend’s 35-26 defeat at Old Crossleyans.

Sheffield have been cut adrift at the bottom with 18 points from their 18 games, while Middlesbrough won at the weekend to move to 30 points from 19 games and Morpeth have 32 from 18 matches.

After three consecutive defeats, Malton have 34 points from 19 outings, one point and one place below Northern.

Club spokesman Bill Laidler said: “We have now been sucked into the relegation battle.

“We are fourth from bottom. Fellow strugglers Northern visit The Gannock on Saturday and a win is a must.”

The Old Crossleyans clash was marred by a gale blowing straight downfield and squally showers.

Having first use of the wind, Crossleyans put Malton under pressure from the start and pinned them into a corner with a well-judged kick after three minutes. When Malton’s throw-in was lost, the hosts drove forward and gained a scrum five metres out.

In the muddy conditions they moved the scrum forward before their number eight picked up and drove over for the first score, which was converted.

Malton then had a period of possession in centre field and were making good ground until a loose pass was intercepted and play moved to the other end. A try-saving tackle prevented the score, but from the subsequent lineout Crossleyans made no mistake with a catch and drive to produce the second touch down.

Making headway against the gale was almost impossible and Crossleyans continually used the elements to keep the game in the Malton half. A speculative kick from half way appeared to be rolling off the field when an alert Crossleyans wing outwitted the Malton defence to touch down before the ball rolled dead. So, with 20 minutes on the clock, the visitors were trailing 21-0.

Late in the half, Crossleyans set up a maul which was moving quickly towards the Malton line when it was illegally brought down and a penalty try awarded.

From the restart Malton, for once, were able to move into the home 22-metre area. When Crossleyans knocked on, the Malton scrum was solid and number eight Ali Coe made good ground before handing on to centre Ben Woodhouse, who crashed over.

The gale was in Malton’s favour for the second half and, as the game progressed, the home supporters became increasingly worried as Malt strove to cut the gap.

Good pressure from the pack sucked in the defenders before the ball was released to the backs and fly-half Charlie Ramsay fed Woodhouse, who crashed over for his second try. Ramsay converted.

Crossleyans are always dangerous on their postage stamp pitch and cancelled out Malton’s effort from a series of scrums on the Malton line. The initial surge was stopped but, when the ball was moved wide, the extra numbers counted and the fifth try was claimed.

The game seemed to be out of Malton’s reach at this stage, but still they battled on. With injury time approaching, some excellent pick and drives had the home side in disarray and substitute Nick Salisbury touched down Malton’s third try. Ramsay converted and Malton again attacked.

A penalty was neatly placed into the corner and, from a good Duncan Foster take, the drive was set up and skipper Sam Triffitt was credited with the touch down. Again Ramsay added the extras and Malton had a bonus point for scoring a fourth try.

Malton: I Cooke, K Leiataua, B Woodhouse, P Fifita, P Angus, C Ramsay, J Newsome, P Dobson, E Buck, E Gwilliam, D Foster, T Parsons, S Triffitt, A Coe. Subs (all used): T Boyle, N Salisbury, H Barnes.