LOSTOCK Gralam were denied an opportunity to claim a title on Saturday because their opponents claimed they didn’t have enough players to field a side.

The Grey Lambs, needing a point to be promoted as champions from Cheshire League One, told the Guardian that Orford sent a message two hours before kick-off to say they weren’t coming to Park Stadium.

They didn’t play a game at Vulcan seven days earlier for the same reason, but did host Moore United in midweek and lost 4-3.

A league spokesman has confirmed the Warrington-based club will be charged with failing to fulfil a fixture.

However a win won’t be awarded to Lostock Gralam, at least not yet.

They lead third-placed Blacon Youth, who have two games left, by six points.

Their rivals play the first of those on Wednesday when they host Vulcan.

If they prevail they can keep alive their own faint hopes of finishing first if they beat Broadheath Central, who coincidentally occupy second spot but can’t catch Lostock, next weekend.

Should they draw level with the side managed jointly by Dom Johnson and Dean Jones, then the league could order Orford to travel to Northwich.

Whatever happens, the Grey Lambs will return to the Premier Division next season.

But they want to do so as champions, just as they did under Neil Bithell in 2010.

The league’s rules state teams tied on points should be separated first by goal-difference.

If that isn’t possible, then the total number of goals scored is considered.

A third determining factor, if required, is the total number of wins followed by a head-to-head record between the two.

As things stand, Lostock have a superior goal-difference.

For now, they turn attention to a Mid-Cheshire District FA Saturday Challenge Cup final meeting with Middlewich Town at Seddon Street on Tuesday, kick-off 7pm.