THE bottom two are separated by just a single point, but Durham City and Philadelphia are breathing a lot easier after the threat of relegation was removed.
League secretary Ray Matthews explained the dramatic change: “An EGM was held last week at which our member clubs voted, once again, that there would be no relegation from the league in the 2011 season.
“The voting was 10 to two. We’ve written to the Holland committee to advise them, but still await their response.
“Prior to the EGM, we had received a letter from the Holland committee suggesting that such a decision may destroy the pyramid system, but that suggestion is refuted by ourselves as we are still willing to consider applications from clubs, subject to the normal criteria, seeking promotion.”
This situation has arisen following the significant concern of clubs within the league that they have been the most adversely affected by the pyramid system, which was introduced a few years ago.
The structure was designed to provide a clear route to the top for those ambitious clubs who wished to progress, but there has been virtually no movement through the Northumberland side of the pyramid, while the relegations of long-standing Senior League members Seaham Harbour and Marsden has caused angst among the remaining clubs who fear a similar fate may befall them in time.
The whole saga looks set to run and run over the winter months as the fall-out from the decision becomes more apparent, but, for Philadelphia, who did have a brief spell in the North East Premier League, and Durham, the pressure is now off.
With relegation no longer an issue, the only thing remaining to be resolved is the championship.
With two games to go, there would appear to be only two remaining contenders as third-placed Burnmoor are now 33 points behind leaders Kimblesworth.
Boldon have to claw back 12 points if they are to retain their title, so it looks like they will bat first if given the opportunity.
They play South Hetton and Horden in their final two matches, with the advantage that both games are on home soil, but the hoped-for return of star all-rounder Nick Sampson-Barnes has not materialised and he will not feature in either game.
Kimblesworth, meanwhile, have been boosted by the news that Michael Fishwick will almost certainly turn out for them in both their matches, the first this week at Felling, and then at home to Durham City.
The classy Fishwick split his hand open taking a catch a few weeks ago, and it was such a mess he had been initially ruled out for the rest of the campaign – but he is determined to add his considerable skills to the cause in the final eight days.
Jimmy Daley should play for Burnmoor against a full-strength Phili side that includes the returning Stephen Robinson and Adam McGuire.
Nick Howe is back for Durham City’s home game against a Castle Eden team that includes Keith Bailey, and Eppleton are missing Shaun Bradbury for their home clash with Whitburn, who have Neil Johnson back in harness.
H Whitburn seconds host Tynemouth in the James Bell Cup semi-final at the Village Ground tonight.