SUNDERLAND Harriers look almost certain to relinquish their Start Fitness North East Harrier League senior men’s title at the final fixture at Prudhoe on Saturday.
The Wearsiders are in third place in the Premier League, five points behind leaders Morpeth and four adrift of second-top Heaton.
Only a disaster by their rivals would see Sunderland add to their remarkable record of 24 wins since 1980 and 10 triumphs over the last 11 years.
While they have hit back with two league wins since a disastrous result at Newcastle’s Town Moor in January, they are still relying on Morpeth and Heaton coming a cropper on the toughest of all Harrier League courses at Prudhoe.
But Morpeth have got a whiff of winning their first Harrier League title and Heaton also cannot be ruled out of the reckoning, so Sunderland’s final outcome is out of their hands.
Sunderland captain Paul Redman said: “Even if we win at Prudhoe, we are relying on both Heaton and Morpeth having a disaster for us to retain the title.
“But we will not be giving up the fight – the league is not won until the final race is run. We are still upbeat and we will be racing with the title as our goal.’’
Sunderland have lost the Premier League title only twice, to South Shields and Wallsend, since the league was split into divisions. The Silksworth-based club and Wallsend are the only clubs to have maintained their Premier League status since its formation.
At the bottom of the league, Low Fell and Tynedale face the drop to the Second Division.
Sunderland Strollers will be back in the Premier League next season. The league’s yo-yo club have an 11-point lead at the top of the Second Division, having lost only one match, to Crook at the Town Moor.
But the race to see who joins them in the top flight could not be closer. Birtley are on 17 points, with Alnwick 18, Crook 18 and Durham City 19.
Houghton Harriers are fourth in the Third Division but they are too far off the pace to join Blaydon and Jesmond Joggers in the promotion stakes.
Sunderland Harrier Michelle Holt will be out to confirm her second place in the women’s grand prix as the league leader, Morpeth Harrier Jane Mooney, cannot be caught.
Primary school teacher Holt is on 27 points and is being chased by Chester-le-Street’s Angela Hunter (26), Elswick’s Alison Dargie (22) and Heaton’s Jo Zoppi (20). Holt’s best performances came at the Town Moor and Blaydon, where she clocked the third fastest time on both occasions.
Heaton Harriers are almost certain to win the league title. Sunderland Strollers are in sixth place.
Sunderland Harrier Sophie Burnett needs to score points at Prudhoe to put herself among the grand prix prizes in the under-13-age group. She is currently in fifth place.
The Harriers are pulling out all the stops to win the under-15 boys league title. They have to beat Gosforth to secure the trophy and coach Ken Jefferson will be turning out a full strength team in a determined attempt to notch up their first win since 2002.
The under-13 boys team are in fourth place and the under-17s sixth, but they have no chance of league success. The Prudhoe meeting starts at 12.15pm with an under-11s race. The senior men are off at 1.15pm.