ALTHOUGH they have an 18-point deficit to make up at this stage of the season, Morpeth Town have at least six games in hand on the other six sides battling to avoid relegation in the First Division.
Jon King’s team gave themselves a fighting chance of avoiding the drop when they defeated rivals-in-distress Horden CW in yesterday’s game at Bedlington Terriers.
The Colliers, though, contributed to their own downfall when Kevin Dixon was sent off after just 13 minutes.
Morpeth took full advantage and the visitors were left with a mountain to climb when they conceded two goals in seven minutes shortly after Dixon’s dismissal.
Goalkeeper Chris Rookes parried a shot from Chris Hutchinson, but Tom Gavin’s despairing attempt to clear the ball off the line failed.
Derek Attwell doubled Morpeth’s lead with a well-struck free-kick from outside the penalty area and, although Horden’s youngsters’ battle was commendable, it was all over for them six minutes from time when Shaun Sweeney completed the scoring.
Morpeth are seven points adrift of Horden CW, who have played eight more games with Ryton and Chester-le-Street also in the bottom four.
Billingham Town are also fighting to avoid the drop following a 3-2 defeat by neighbours Billingham Synthonia at Bedford Terrace.
It looked all over for Peter Mulcaster’s side when the Synners went into a three-goal lead courtesy of James Magowan, with a brace of goals, and Danny Earl.
Mulcaster simultaneously made three substitutions and was immediately rewarded as Michael Dalton reduced the deficit.
Two minutes from the end James Crossman was also on target, but Town failed to find an equaliser and remain fifth from the basement.
Esh Winning are just above them and West Auckland Town’s remarkable resurgence continued in their derby with Bishop Auckland.
Mattie Moffat was left with a simple tap-in on 12 minutes, and in the 32nd minute there was a blow for Bishops with the dismissal of Adam Emson.
Wayne Clark (og) and Moffat (pen) sealed a 3-0 victory for West who, after being bottom of the table at Christmas when they had only six points from 20 games, are now up to seventh having taken 31 points from their last 15 matches.
Any hopes Newcastle Benfield had of pipping Spennymoor Town for the championship ended in a 2-0 defeat by Tow Law Town at the Ironworks Road ground where Danny Craggs scored both goals.
Realistically, only Whitley Bay can catch Spennymoor – and they maintained their aspirations with a 2-1 win at West Allotment Celtic.
Just before they opened the scoring in the 43rd minute, Celtic had Colin McKenzie taken to hospital with a leg injury and after Gary McRoberts netted, Jamie McClen also had to withdraw from the action.
Before the interval, Chris Fawcett restored parity and on the hour Lee Kerr headed in what proved to be the winning goal. The Seahorses are third, a point adrift of Dunston UTS and 13 behind Spennymoor, who have fulfilled three more fixtures.
In Division Two, the top-four contest went to Stokesley who won at Marske United courtesy of Lev Yalcin and Andy Jennings after Danny Brunskill had given the hosts the lead.
Debutant Fred Woodhouse (3), Elliott Gardner (2), Mark Wood (2), Dan Mellanby, Anthony Campbell and John Knox enjoyed a 10-goal romp in Newton Aycliffe’s defeat of Crook Town. Last night Thornaby were held 3-3 at home by Guisborough Town.