Ryhope CW’s Second Division promotion hopes hit a setback with an unexpected defeat at Hebburn Town on Saturday.
Ryhope keeper Chris Rookes made a point-blank save to deny Channon North, then denied the striker again only to be beaten for what proved to be the only goal on 35 minufes as, after good work from Craig Malley, North scored with a looping shot.
Ryhope laid siege to Hebburn’s goal late in the first half, but an equaliser eluded Gary Pearson’s men.
With 10 minutes to go, Josh Home Jackson got in on goal as Hebburn’s defence was caught flatfooted, but home keeper Steve Hubery saved well with his feet.
Ryhope stayed second but will clinch promotion if they beat Whickahm at home tomorrow night.
With the defeat, the Wearsiders are now only a point in front of Chester-le-Street who won the crucial match-of-the-day against Billingham Synthonia, whose promotion hopes are over.
Synners had to win but made the worst possible start when they conceded the only goal to Craig Mickle with just 50 seconds gone.
Team Northumbria moved into fourth place – four points behind Chester with only two games to go – after beating Whickham 1-0, Ryan Redford bagging the vital goal in stoppage time.
South Shields sealed the title with a 4-0 victory against Crook Town at the Millfield.
Daryl Hall and a Julio Arca penalty had them comfortable at the halfway stage and, in the second period, Warren Byrne and Lewis Teasdale (penalty) cemented a 33rd win in 40 games.
Easington Colliery have a good chance to finish sixth during their first season back in the Northern League.
Paul Frame’s side won their penultimate game 2-0 against Darlington RA at Brinkburn Road with first-half strikes from young Joe Kerridge and Aiden Haywood.
Stokesley SC are the wooden spoonists despite defeating fourth-from-bottom Willington thanks to Peter Wakefield and Ben Jackson, while Birtley Town are also in danger of being relegated.
With two games to play, it’s between Birtley and Esh Winning. Birtley claimed a point at Tow Law, with Anthony Smith’s equaliser after Joe Gill had fired the Lawyers in front.
They are now three points adrift of Esh Winning, who were hit for six at Heaton Stannington.
Gary Yates (2), Lewis Burns, Peter Scott, Ryan Bailey and Dean Imray all beat Esh goalkeeper Curtis Richardson.
Heaton now host Birtley Town in a crucial clash tonight.