An exciting climax to the NEPL Premier Division season has been dashed after South Shields were relegated at the beginning of the week after being hit with a hefty 30-point deduction.
Shields, who had seemingly given themselves a chance of avoiding the drop with a superb win over Eppleton last weekend, take on third placed Chester-le- Street on Saturday.
Their win had seen them close the gap on second-bottom Felling to 13 points and Whitburn by 18 points, but any hopes of a miraculous escape on the final day of the campaign were ended when the league upheld a decision to dock Shields 30 points for a breach of their disciplinary rules.
No one at the club was available to comment on the decision, with Shields failing with an appeal on Monday evening, rejected by the league’s committee.
However, the Gazette understands that the club believes there could be a further twist in the relegation story.
Shields’ plight, however, means Whitburn are now guarenteed safe ahead of their game against Eppleton tomorrow.
The Villagers welcome back Brydon Carse and Luke Smith who replace brothers Lee and Craig Henderson who are at a wedding.
Secretary Dan Quinan said: “The season has not quite fulfilled its promise.
“The team has sometimes not pressed home its apparent advantage in several matches, nor responded when greater consistency has been called for.
“On the other hand, when luck has gone against us, it has done so in a big way. However, the team remains in the Premier Division and lives to fight another season.”
Sunderland host Boldon in the First Division with the visitors hoping to end with a flourish.
Boldon, however, will be without professional Umar Waheed who has returned to Pakistan where he will link up with their T20 squad, while Phil Shakespeare is also unavailable.
Skipper Chris Ellison said: “We aim to finish as high as we can and get back on track after a few disappointing results of late.
“Though we are happy with our final position, the side must play with greater consistency to sustain momentum.”