The title challenge of long-time leaders BULWELL is hanging by a thread after an unexpected defeat at the hands of Real United.
Already reeling from a three-point deduction caused by the resignation of Barrowby, The Bulls were knocked off the top of the Central Midlands League, South Division table when beaten 1-0 by Real last midweek.
They recovered to inflict a comfortable 3-0 defeat on bottom team Calverton Miners Welfare Last Saturday.
But with only two games to play, they are now relying on slip-ups by their two rivals in the title race, Clifton All Whites and South Normanton Athletic.
Clifton are the new leaders, one point in front of Bulwell and with a game in hand. Squeezed between them are Normanton on the same number of points as The Bulls but also with a game in hand.
The only hope now for Terry Witts’s team is that they win their final fixtures -- against Blidworth Welfare this Saturday and then at Belper United on Monday 5th May -- and that Clifton and Normanton drop points before they play each other in the last match of the campaign on Saturday 10th May.
Clifton’s other two games are at home to Swanwick Pentrich Road this Saturday and away to Belper on Wednesday 7th May.
While Normanton’s other two games are at home to Mickleover Royal British Legion this Saturday and at home to Bilborough Pelican on Saturday 3rd May.
Bulwell’s costly match against Real was settled by a solitary goal two minutes into injury-time when the visitors’ captain, Kieran Whalin, unleashed a 20-yard thunderbolt that nestled in the top corner, giving ‘keeper James Wheat no chance.
A poor contest was in stark contrast to the nine-goal thriller the two sides had produced in their previous meeting when Bulwell won 5-4.
Neither side was able to break down stubborn defensive units, with the final ball lacking and clearcut chances few and far between.
Ryan Perkins wasted The Bulls’ best opening, while at the other end, goalkeeper James Wheat made some fine saves.
For the Calverton game, Witts and senior cohort Steve Osborne left assistant boss Ian Lowe in charge while they went to cast an eye over Floodlit Cup final opponents, AFC Mansfield.
Again, Bulwell struggled, even though the home side had lost 25 of their 29 games this term, and it took them 63 minutes to break the deadlock -- just after Witts and Osborne had returned!
Impressive new frontman Connor Croft smashed home the key opening goal from close range after a pinpoint cross by Ryan Bowen.
Six minutes later, it was 2-0 as Darren Garmston found Jamie McKeever, who slotted home. And the win was wrapped up near the end when Jamie Walker drove home a penalty, awarded for a foul on McKeever.