NORTHWICH’S dream of promotion to the National League is over for this season after they lost a thrilling play-off at Sandal on Saturday.

Blacks’ staged a heroic second half fightback after starting the final half hour 30-10 adrift of the hosts but, despite replacement Joel Barber and Steve Campbell touching down, they fell eight points short.

Sandal were worthy victors.

They recovered from the early blow of Campbell notching the contest’s first try when speedy wide man Tom Hodson touched down twice either side of a Sam Whittingham score.

In-form kicker Greg Wood converted each of them to add to two penalty kicks.

Northwich were on the ropes when player coach Dodo Muntean was sent to the sin bin in the seconds before half time and, when Wood sent another three-pointer over in the second half, the Moss Farm men appeared to be out of the contest.

They rallied in the final half hour when Barber’s speed took him over in the corner, converted by Richard Dale, and then Campbell’s determination earned him the reward of a second try with ten minutes to play.

But that was where the scoring stopped.

“It was a storming second half performance,” said captain Rick Smith afterwards.

“I think we had them on the ropes only to run out of time to score again.”

Sandal now join North One East champions Billingham and North One West table-toppers Lymm in National Three North next term.

Smith added: “We’ll bounce back even stronger next time around.”

FOR a full report, plus further reaction from the Northwich camp, pick up this week’s edition of the Guardian on Wednesday.