Lisburn Distillery have been dealt a blow to their hopes of escaping relegation, after they were deducted a further three points for fielding an illegible player.
The Whites already faced an uphill battle to remain in NIFL Championship One, however, they now have just eight points with only seven matches remaining, whilst the nearest team to them, Annagh United, sit on 23 points.
Whilst the Whites have two games in hand on Annagh, a goal difference of -43, and lying 15 points behind their nearest rivals, has almost sealed their fate.
Just 21 points are on offer from the remaining seven games and Distillery would need to win every match, starting at home tomorrow (Saturday) against Donegal Celtic.
Lisburn Distillery confirmed the points reduction in a statement saying it was with ‘deep regret’ that they had been deducted the three points.
The club said: “It is with deep regret that the club have to advise that Lisburn Distillery have today been deducted three league points by the Northern Ireland Football League as a result of our fielding an illegible player earlier in the season.
“The deduction of the three points refers to the 1-0 victory over Armagh City on 5th September 2015 a game which featured the player in question.
“As a result of the non registration Lisburn Distillery have been deducted three league points and Armagh City awarded the game by a 3-0 score line and they have subsequently been awarded the three points from the fixture,” they said.
“As the player has also featured in a number of other league games for the club there has also been a an adjustment made to the goal difference in all games that the player featured in although no further points deduction will be made as no points were gained in any of the other fixtures.
“The club have also been fined as a result of the error although this has been reduced due to the delay of communication of the offence to the club within a reasonable time scale by the footballing authorities.”
Commenting on the situation, Club Secretary Colin Hopkins stated: “The fact that this particular lack of player registration was able to slip through our systems unnoticed is exceptionally frustrating.
“As club secretary I have to hold my hands up and admit responsibility for not realising that there was a problem until we were notified accordingly.
“I also wish to offer a genuine apology to everyone at the club for the mistake.
“The issue has highlighted a shortfall with the systems that I currently have in place for player registration, systems which I will now be improving to ensure that a similar scenario doesn’t happen again.
“It has also been frustrating that, despite the fact that the player featured in our opening game of the season, it took until mid January until the matter was first brought to our attention.
“This being the case I would also urge the footballing authorities to look at their recording systems moving forward to ensure that no other club is caught up in a similar scenario in the future.”
Mr Hopkins concluded: “Finally I would like to express my gratitude to those supporters who have gone out of their way to show their support to me at this time and also to my fellow directors who declined my offer of resignation over the matter.”