Saturday's First South action review

The race for the EVO-STIK Northern Premier League's First Division South title took an unexpected twist on Saturday as leaders Shaw Lane AFC and second-placed Witton Albion both lost, writes Pitchero's Steve Whitney.

A 58th minute header by Ben Hutchinson’s decided a tense but entertaining battle between first-placed Shaw Lane and fifth-placed Basford United to keep the Nottinghamshire side`s play-off hopes alive at a rain-drenched Greenwich Avenue.

Hutchinson headed in Fabian Smith’s precise cross at the far post but Basford’s real match winner was keeper Saul Deeney who pulled off a string of fine saves.

Witton`s 13 game unbeaten run and their proud undefeated home record disappeared in one afternoon at Wincham Park – and to relegation-threatened Rugby Town too.

Rugby made it back-to-back wins to move four points clear of the drop zone after leading through Ryan Quinn`s early fourth minute opener until just before the break when Steven Tames pulled Albion level.

Will Jones then put the home side ahead nine minutes after the restart, only for Chris Sterling to level three minutes later. Aaron Moses-Garvey threatened a shock when he made it 3-2 for the visitors just 54 minutes from time.

But there was still time for two more goals, with sub Tolani Omotola seemingly earning Witton a point with a goal in the first minute of stoppage time before Sterling`s second earned Valley a vital and surprise three points.

Third-placed Spalding United beat Belper Town 1-0 at the Sir Halley Stewart Field, thanks to a 57th minute Lee Beeson penalty, while AFC Rushden & Diamonds are fourth after they beat fellow play-off contenders Leek Town 2-1 at the Dog & Duck.

In front of 470, Ben Farrell crucially put Diamonds in front right on half-time. But Darren Chadwick`s 67th minute equaliser looked like taking a point back to Staffordshire until Nabil Shariff popped up with an 84th minute winner for the hosts.

It`s tight for the play-off race though with Newcastle Town joining Diamonds and Basford on 58 points after a 2-0 home win over Market Drayton Town, Ricky Bridge giving Castle a 19th minute lead that Chris Baker doubled eight minutes before the interval.

Elsewhere, Stamford AFC produced one of their worst home performances of the season as Stocksbridge Park Steels went nap at the Zeeco Stadium.

Steels led 2-0 at the break with goals from the recently returned Richard Stirrup and a Harrison Biggins penalty. And they added three more after the break through Scott Ruthven with two and Josh Hobson – the Daniels not having a shot on target.

A goal from Will Mellors-Blair eight minutes after half-time virtually sealed Carlton Town`s place in the division next season as they won 1-0 at Sheffield FC while Gresley FC edged out Romulus by the odd goal in three at the Moat, Matt Melbourne and Leando Browne outgunning Jordan Francis.

Bedworth United enjoyed a 3-2 win at Chasetown with goals from Dan Creaney after 13 and 53 minutes, sandwiched by a Jack Jeys effort on 33 minutes – the Scholars replying through Jack Langston after 19 minutes and ex-Greenback Mitch Piggon in stoppage time.

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Where next?

League statement: points deducted The EVO-STIK Northern Premier League's First Division North table was amended on Sunday to reflect the points deducted from four clubs following the expiration of their 14 days to appeal.
Saturday's Premier Division action review Blyth Spartans maintained their ten point lead at the top of the EVO-STIK Northern Premier League's Premier Division table on Saturday after a comprehensive 4-0 Croft Park win over seemingly-doomed Skelmersdale United, writes Pitchero's Steve Whitney.

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