THREE defeats in a week have all but ended Sunderland RCA’s hopes of claiming the STL Northern League championship.
Losing to arch-rivals Spennymoor Town and West Auckland Town was not surprising, but going down to Jarrow Roofing on Saturday certainly was.
The South Tynesiders arrived on Wearside equal on points with Penrith, who occupy the third relegation place.
But victory by the odd goal in five over Neil Hixon’s men gives them a glimmer of hope they might yet escape.
Paul Robinson chipped goalkeeper Craig Shields midway through the opening half before Richard Paxton headed in the equaliser at the back post.
Robinson regained the lead for Roofing and Chris Hughes put them two goals in front. Although Stephen Jones replied with eight minutes remaining, RCA were unable to produce an equaliser.
They continue to lead the table, but their rivals for the title have all played significantly fewer games.
West Auckland Town moved into second, but were taken to the wire before edging Billingham Town.
Mattie Moffat fired West in front, but Nick Martin levelled before the interval.
There were only five minutes remaining when Adam Nichols’ shot from the edge of the penalty area took a deflection and beat goalkeeper James Briggs for West’s winner.
Spennymoor Town, who were without a fixture, remain third and Dunston UTS are fourth following their five-goal rout of Stokesley SC.
Lee McAndrew with a brace, Stephen Preen, Kane Young and Michael Chilton improved UTS’s goals difference.
Stokesley are already relegated and it is almost certain Tow Law Town, who also had a free day on Saturday, will join them in Division Two next season.
Penrith are third from bottom, three points behind Jarrow Roofing with four games in hand, but the Cumbrians’ chances of staying up were not helped when they were blitzed by Bishop Auckland.
Andrew Johnson rifled a hat-trick, with Darren Richardson and Adam McLane also on target. Penrith’s only reply was credited to Andrew Murray-Jones.
South Shields are ending the season on a high. Stephen Ramsey (2), Lee Bell (two penalties) and Peter Kane secured victory at Marske United, for whom Danny Brunskill and Chris McGill replied.
In Division Two, the signs are looking ominous for Easington Colliery.
After going down in an eight-goal thriller to Thornaby, they trail neighbours Horden CW by six points with four games to play.
Haydon Pace (2) and Daniel Robinson struck for Paul Adamson’s side, but five goals were conceded to Gary Mitchell (2), Mark Lilley, Stephen Hodgson and Paul Thorns.
Horden CW went down at fifth-from-basement Brandon United, who coasted home after Daryl Evans had headed the Colliers in front after just five minutes. Mark Costello, Michael Nichol, Ryan Redman and Lee Tinkler responded.
Seaham Red Star are not out of the woods after losing to Esh Winning.
Dan Mitton found the net in a goalmouth melee, but when David Gordon restored parity with 13 minutes remaining, Red Star were in with a chance of taking all three points.
However, Craig Nichol regained the advantage for Esh and as they searched for a second equaliser, Seaham left the door open for Craig Coates to strike in the last minute.
Two of the three leading sides suffered shock defeats. Chester-le-Street sent second-placed Hebburn Town crashing as Luke Wilson, with a brace, Kevin Henderson and Luke Proctor netted. John Toomey was Hebburn’s only marksman.
Hebburn stay three points behind Team Northumbria, who did not have a game and Morpeth Town are third, despite losing to Northallerton Town, for whom James Bowman scored the only goal.
Washington won at Whitehaven who were coasting with goals from Stuart Shaw and Greg Quayle.
However, the Newtowners produced a late flourish scoring three times in the last 15 minutes through Lee Hamilton (2) and Michael Rush.