By Glen Robertson
Newton Aycliffe all-but secured first division safety with a convincing win over Norton & Stockton, who had their relegation confirmed.
For the second successive Monday night, Allan Oliver’s men scored four times without reply and only a freak set of results could send them down to the second tier of the Northern League.
Fred Woodhouse opened the scoring in the first half, while a Stuart Owen brace and a Danny Earl strike completed a comfortable win over the Ancients, who turned up with just 10 players.
Darren Craddock was unavailable so Josh Knox dropped into the defence with Martin Young returning to the midfield.
Aycliffe struggled to break down the visitors in the early stages but that changed in the 26th minute as right-back Stephen Gibson’s cross found Woodhouse at the back post and the former Stockton Town man clinically headed home.
Earl was denied a second on the stroke of half-time by a brilliant save from former Darlington goalkeeper Jack Norton, but the floodgates opened in the second half.
Three minutes after the break Owen’s sweetly-struck volley at the far post from Earl’s cross doubled the lead.
Wooudhouse hit the crossbar before Earl headed wide as Aycliffe took full control of proceedings.
And the third came with 15 minutes left as substitute Sean Tarling sent Earl clear and the striker swept home from close range.
Owen rounded the game off a minute later as he drew a foul in the penalty area and then dispatched his spot-kick beyond Norton’s grasp.
One more point in their final two games will make sure of another season in the top flight for the Royal Blues.
Click here to see the up-to-date Northern League first division table.