WITTON Albion have confirmed they will be deducted three points by the Northern Premier League for fielding an ineligible player.
They selected Tolani Omotola in their match-day squad for a Division One South game at Stocksbridge Park Steels on February 28, and the striker came on as a substitute in the second half.
The visitors went on to win 4-3.
Following a hearing last Wednesday, league officials confirmed the sanction and fined the club £100.
A deduction, expected to be reflected in the standings tomorrow, means Shaw Lane will be promoted to the Premier Division as champions.
“It’s obviously a blow to all of us and the board would like to wholeheartedly apologise to both the players and our supporters,” said chairman Mark Harris.
“We abide by the same rules as every other club, so we have to take any penalty on the chin.”
In a statement, he said the error was spotted the day after the game.
Omotola, who turned 19 yesterday, has been on loan at Wincham Park from National League side Tranmere Rovers since the start of the season.
However the terms of the agreement require it to be renewed monthly, and Witton did not have written confirmation of the latest extension before kick-off at Stocksbridge.
They were not charged until March 24, almost a month later, and admitted their mistake.
Secretary Glynis McDonough resigned as a result, and has been replaced by Mike Harper.
However the players, under manager Carl Macauley’s instruction, were not told until after this afternoon’s derby success against Northwich Victoria – a win that condemned their tenants to relegation.
He wanted to wait until the penalty was confirmed by the league.
The Guardian understands that Albion would not have confirmed the news today had they beaten Shaw Lane last Tuesday and, in turn, been level with their rivals on points following today’s round of matches.
Harris said: “We wanted to avoid diverting focus away from what was happening on the field.”
Albion will now attempt to secure promotion via the play-offs, with a semi-final scheduled for next Tuesday.
Before that they conclude the regular campaign at home to Sheffield on Saturday, when supporters will be offered free entry.
“We cannot allow this setback to define what has been an excellent season,” said Harris.
“With that in mind, we hope as many people as possible still come and roar on the team to set things up for the semi-final.”