DEESIDE Ramblers are in grave danger of losing their top-flight status after going down 5-4 at home to Belper on Saturday.
Their sixth straight defeat means the Ramblers must win at second-placed Sheffield Hallam on Sunday to definitely avoid slipping to the foot of the Conference North and into the sole automatic relegation place.
But whatever the outcome in the Steel City the second-from-bottom Tarporley outfit cannot improve on their current position in the 10-team division.
If they do finish ninth they will take part in a three-team play off to decide who stays in the England Hockey League.
Only two sides – Sheffield and newly crowned champions Brooklands – have scored more goals than the Ramblers.
But it is their problems at the other end of the field that have proved to be their downfall.
Roared on by a big crowd at the John Heath Sports Centre, strikes from Ali Ghazanfar, Ian Ward, Ibrar Latif and Mark Cookson were not enough to stop the Ramblers from being beaten by Belper on Sunday.
The in-form Ramblers 5ths, meanwhile, won 7-2 at home to Bangor City with goals from John Porter (2), Phil Brown (2), Mark Goodyer (2) and Nick Worrall.
The experienced Ramblers, who had won 4-1 at Neston South Wirral 4ths on Saturday thanks to Porter and Brown braces, fielded a back five with a combined age of 255 years.
Ramblers 3rds (Peter Lawlor, Max Ankers, Piers Ashworth) went down 4-3 at Alderley Edge 2nds on Saturday while the young 4ths – featuring six players from the club’s Badgers side – lost 5-0 at home to Neston South Wirral 3rds.
North League Division One basement boys Chester were beaten 5-1 at home by high-flying Whitley Bay & Tynemouth on Saturday.