NANTWICH Town and Alsager Town are among the 17 NWCL clubs to have submitted applications to join the new-look Northern Premier League next season.
The two South Cheshire clubs, currently 12th and 13th respectively in Division One, are hoping to be part of the revamped UniBond League structure following the restructuring of non-league football, which will see the creation of a second tier to the Nationwide Conference next term.
A North West Counties League spokesman said: 'The large number of applications is due to the current restructuring of the Pyramid system and shows the commitment of the clubs within our league.
'To date, we are still unsure of the number of places available in the UniBond First Division and despite repeated requests, the league have still not been advised regarding the number of clubs that will be promoted to the Northern Premier League.
'Any club eligible for promotion will have to achieve the minimum ground grading criteria.'
Both Nantwich and Alsager will be looking for improved fortunes on the field after suffering 2-1 defeats in the first round of the North West Counties League Cup on Saturday.
Nantwich were one of two First Division sides to go out to Second Division opposition as they went down at a Great Harwood Town side unbeaten in 21 matches.
The Lancastrians were quick off the mark and goalkeeper Stuart Heeps had already been called upon before the home side went ahead in the sixth minute.
Paul Mashiter's pace took him past Dabbers player-boss Nigel Gleghorn and when he pulled the ball back in the penalty area, recent signing Andy McNally muscled in front of Lyndon Hall to score off the post.
Dale Melling blazed over from a Danny Griggs cross and Vernum Rowland poked the ball wide as Nantwich looked to make an early reply. Andy Parkinson had a long-range effort tipped over the bar by Bobby Harris and Wes Wilkinson uncharacteristically miscued when well placed.
Nantwich had to reshuffle when Steve Jardine was taken to hospital with a broken nose, and the hosts increased their lead through danger-man Mashiter on the hour-mark.
The Dabbers eventually found their form in the last 20 minutes and, five minutes from time, Wilkinson picked up a through ball to jink in from the left and pull Nantwich back into the game.
Adam Vickers almost sent the tie into extra-time with a surging run from deep and his curling shot needed an acrobatic save from Harris. But it was too little too late.
The other Division One side to lose to lower league opponents were Glossop, who started a miserable week for Nantwich by inflicting a 3-0 defeat on the Dabbers last Tuesday. To make matters worse for Town, central defender Martin Packham was dismissed.
Alsager will be just as disappointed about their League Cup exit after losing at home to a Clitheroe side who finished the game with just nine men.
First-half goals from Neil Spencer and Stuart Parkinson put Clitheroe in command, but a torrid second period for the visitors saw Spencer and Chris Whittingham receive their marching orders.
Wayne Brotherton pulled a goal back with a penalty but Alsager could not find an equaliser as their depleted opponents defended doggedly. Nantwich, who hosted Bacup Borough last night, entertain managerless Trafford on Saturday and then visit Congleton Town in the quarterfinals of the Cheshire UniBond Senior Cup on Tuesday.
Nantwich Reserves beat Lostock Gralam 4-2 on Saturday and visit Club AZ in another Mid Cheshire League Division Two fixture this weekend.
Alsager have two away games coming up with a trip to Curzon Ashton on Saturday and a visit to St Helens Town on Tuesday.