IT’S been a turbulent season for Ryton but just one point from their penultimate game at home to already relegated Horden CW could spark a celebration.
Towards the end of last year the Kingsley Park club submitted their resignation to the SNL as a precaution. Had they not done so by December 31 and subsequently resigned they would have been fined £1,000, a risk they couldn’t contemplate because of a precarious financial position.
Happily, they are to continue, and if they manage just a draw today their top-flight status will be secured for another season.
“We did well to claim a point at Norton and Stockton Ancients on Monday night and just one more will start the celebrations,” said boss Barry Fleming.
“After all the club has gone through in recent months it will be fantastic and a great relief if we stay up, and I’m very confident we will.”
Ryton go into the crucial fixture without Craig Marron and Gary Bailes and, although goalkeeper Lenny French returns, Andrew Dobbie will need a late fitness check.
Horden CW manager Brian Honour has denied that he is to quit Welfare Park at the end of the season.
He said: “I don’t know where this rumour started but it’s absolutely untrue. I knew when I took over in December as the club’s fourth manager of the season that there was no money and nine senior players immediately walked away.
“Craig Shields, Darren Atkinson and Kevin Dixon stayed on and I want to pay a huge tribute to them and to the kids who have given their all.
“I cannot give players money but what I can offer are the best facilities in the SNL, and hopefully my assistant Ian McGukin and I can coach the youngsters into being better players.”
While Ryton are highly unlikely to join Horden CW in Division Two, the same cannot be said for either Morpeth Town or Chester-le-Street.
The Northumbrians are 13 points from safety with at least four games in hand on the other four sides battling to avoid the drop, but they must start winning – starting against Bishop Auckland, who will want to erase the memory of conceding seven goals to Whitley Bay in midweek.
Chester-le-Street have taken just one point out of the last 27 and are third from the basement but just three points adrift of Billingham Town with a game in hand.
Stuart Sherwood takes the Cestrians to Consett for what is virtually a make-or-break game, but he cannot include Damian Maw or Jordan Fraser, although Scott Donaldson is added to the squad.
Esh Winning are also not yet out of the woods. They, together with Billingham Town, have a free day and will be anxiously awaiting the results from other games.
Shildon and Whitley Bay are both in with a chance of pipping Dunston UTS for the runners-up position. UTS have completed their programme and Shildon, only a point behind Billy Irwin’s side with two games in hand, host Tow Law Town.
Whitley Bay are fourth, only a point adrift of Shildon, who have played one game more than the Seasiders. Ian Chandler’s team go to Penrith buoyed by winning the Tynetec Northumberland FA Senior Cup and plundering seven goals at Bishop Auckland in two games this week.
Ashington hope to end in the top six, and at Norton and Stockton Ancients manager Gary Middleton awaits news on the fitness of defender James Harmison, brother of England and Durham County paceman Stephen, who was at St James’ Park on Monday night when the Colliers lost to Whitley Bay.
Although Bedlington Terriers are eighth they have played fewer fixtures than all the teams above them.
Ben Christensen and Stuart Elliott are both doubtful for the visit of Billingham Synthonia, who will name Craig Perry as captain because Andy Harbron is suspended.
A win for Stokesley at North Shields will confirm them as champions of the Second Division with Sunderland RCA and Jarrow Roofing fighting it out for the runners-up slot.
All three are promoted and it is third time lucky for RCA, who ended fourth in two consecutive seasons.
They are at home to Team Northumbria, while Jarrow Roofing, surprisingly defeated by Thornaby in the semi-final of the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup, will want to end on a high by defeating Northallerton Town.