IT’S becoming increasingly fraught at the bottom of the Ebac Northern League Division One.
Wins last night for Newton Aycliffe and Norton and Stockton Ancients, and Sunderland RCA’s defeat at Consett, means that only four points separate six sides.
RCA are fifth from the basement, just a point outside the drop zone – with only four games left.
Worryingly for the Meadow Park side, only Billingham Town have an inferior goal difference – which could be crucial come the end of the season.
Consett led with a 20th-minute penalty by ex-RCA striker Aristote Guerin Lakonga, awarded for a push on Luke Sullivan.
Worse was to follow for Neil Hixon’s side two minutes later, when a corner found Sullivan, who volleyed into the far corner of the net.
Jamie Clarke’s RCA spot-kick was saved by goalkeeper Chris Elliott on 40 minutes.
Before the hour was up, RCA keeper Mark Foden made a good save from Anthony Lund, but the ball rebounded to Sullivan, who made no mistake to give the Steelmen an unassailable 3-1 lead.
Until recently, Newton Aycliffe looked doomed, but they are now eighth bottom after coming from behind to beat Ashington, who led with Gareth Bainbridge’s simple tap-in.
Danny Lambert equalised with a mis-hit, wind-assisted effort and the hosts’ Danny Earl then had a penalty well saved by Karl Dryden.
The miss did not prove costly, however, as Tom Hinchley’s long-range effort, helped on its way by the elements. flashed into the net for the crucial winner.
Had Norton lost, they would have been relegated, but they shocked Bedlington Terriers, winning with a first-minute 20-yarder from Anthony Hume past stranded keeper Craig Pickering.
At the top, Darlington 1883 conceded two crucial points to Bishop Auckland and now lead Spennymoor Town by 23 points, having played eight games more.
The Quakers looked on course for a comfortable win when Chris Emms and Terry Galbraith (penalty) had them two up, but Keiran Megran threw Bishops a lifeline on 82 minutes and he equalised with a last-minute spot-kick.
Whitley Bay kept alive their hopes of a third-place finish by beating Celtic Nation 3-1, with Paul Chow’s clinical second-half hat-trick turning the game around.
Dunston UTS had Andy Bulford and Chris Swailes on target to beat Billingham Synthonia 2-0, with keeper Andy Clarke impressing.
With Crook Town and Ryhope CW promoted, the race is on for third place in Division Two.
Jarrow Roofing are the favourites, but they had to settle for a 0-0 draw at North Shields.
Morpeth Town closed to within five points of Roofing with a 5-1 romp at third-bottom Esh Winning, for whom Shaun Davies replied to strikes from Michael Chilton, Jordan Fry, Stephen Anderson, Paul Dunn and Alex Benjamin.
Crook Town, hoping to pip Ryhope CW to the championship, drew 1-1 with Whickham, with Craig Price cancelling out Abubankar Salias’s opener. Crook are five points ahead of Ryhope, having played two games more.