DOWNTON are about to slip from first to third in the Sydenhams League standings after inadvertently fielding an ineligible player in two Premier Division games.

The league table currently shows the Wiltshire club sitting five points clear of Christchurch and Alresford at the top.

But the SL management committee have ruled that the Robins’ December games against Alton and Christchurch must be replayed because they fielded an unregistered substitute on both occasions.

Unbeknown to Downton, Matt Gurd, now in his fourth season at Wick Lane, had only been signed on Wyvern Combination League forms for 2012/13 and was not a registered Sydenhams Premier player.

Gurd went on for the last seven minutes of the 3-2 win over Alton, scoring an own goal into the bargain, and played a mere 30 seconds of the 3-1 victory over title rivals Christchurch in which Downton had a man sent off with the score at 1-1.

The Robins have been fined for both offences and ordered to replay both games.

The League’s competition secretary John Gorman stressed: “It wasn’t done deliberately and there was no attempt by Downton to deceive or gain advantage but, at this level, you can’t play a player who isn’t signed on.

“Part of the problem is that Downton haven’t had a permanent secretary, but they’ve just appointed Brian Ford from Laverstock & Ford.”

Ruling out any prospect of a Downton appeal, Gorman added: “There’s nothing to appeal against.

“Quite simply they’ve broken the rule and they’ve admitted it.”

Although Downton boss Jeff Softley feels deeply sorry for his players, he is determined not to let it ruin their season.

“It’s a silly fault on our behalf, but mistakes happen. No one’s to blame and the only answer is to move on,” he said.

“Our chairman spoke to all the players individually and, to a man, they all responded positively.”