PICKERING Town manager Paul Marshall has backed calls for a play-off system to be introduced in the Toolstation Northern Counties East League, writes Ian Appleyard.

The absence of play-offs in the ninth tier of English football has been branded 'beyond stupid' this week by Bridlington Town manager Curtis Woodhouse.

With Cleethorpes Town firmly in command of the race for the title, rival clubs including the Pikes and Bridlington are now playing for little more than pride.

Woodhouse, a former England under-21 international who played in the Premier League for Birmingham City, says the situation is 'ridiculous' and needs changing to improve the state of non-league football.

"We are third and can't win the league so are just wandering through our last few league games," said Woodhouse. "Most teams in our league have had absolutely nothing to play for since Christmas. It's ridiculous.

"If a play-off system was brought in, the top 10 would still have all to play for, and attendances would improve as fans would be excited," he added. "It just makes a for a better league and I have no idea why it can't happen. It's beyond stupid.

"We have six league games left that mean absolutely nothing when, in reality, the last six league games can and should make-or-break a season."

Marshall, who has managed non-league clubs for over 20 years, agrees totally with Woodhouse's call.

He is also upset by the fact that struggling clubs in Evo-Stik First Division North are often given reprieves when other clubs go out of business.

"This has wound me up for years," said Marshall. "It is ridiculous but I think it will change eventually. It has to.

"There are six teams in our division who could finish mid-table in the Evo-Stik," he added. "Going up this season would not have phased me because I know my current team is good enough to compete at that next level."

The Pikes beat Rainworth Miners Welfare 4-0 on Tuesday night thanks to goals from Ryan Blott, Lewis Taylor, Sam Denton, and Joe Dunnett.

However, they are still two points behind leaders Cleethorpes who won 6-1 away at Thackley and, significantly, still have three games in hand.

The Pikes now have four games remaining and host mid-table Liversedge at Mill Lane on Saturday (3pm). Cleethorpes entertain struggling Harrogate Railway this weekend.

After a brief dip in form, the Pikes had returned to winning ways last weekend with a 1-0 victory at Handsworth Parramore.

Defender Sam Denton returned to haunt his former club by scoring the only goal of the game.

Denton quit the South Yorkshire club earlier this season and spent a brief spell at Harrogate Railway Athletic before joining the Pikes last month.

He scored with a deflected header after rising to meet a Joe Danby corner 15 minutes into the game.

Denton had produced a goal saving tackle to prevent Joe Thornton giving Handsworth the lead in the opening minute.

Goalkeeper Toby Wells, meanwhile, pulled off a brilliant save to keep out a header from Reece Hands with eight minutes gone.

Robert Chipps might have doubled the Pikes' advantage but shot over the bar from 25 yards and Handsworth were unfortunate not equalise from a scramble at a corner ten minutes before halftime.

Striker Ryan Blott miss a good chance for the Pikes after 47 minutes when shooting straight at the home goalkeeper from 20 yards.

Handsworth's Jack Macarthy hit the top of the crossbar with a header as pressure mounted on the Pikes.

Wells tipped the ball over for a corner to deny Harry Bamforth and a Will Eades header sailed narrowly wide of the post.

The Pikes weathered the storm and, in the last 20 minutes, Eddie Birch, Danby, and Lewis Taylor all had good efforts saved by goalkeeper Gary Stevens.

Pikes V Handsworth Parramore: Wells, Parker, Danby (Dale 90), Chipps, Denton, Tilsley, Thompson, Cooper (Birch 25), Blott, Taylor, Dalton (Dunnett 62). Unused substitutes: Kamara, Ingram. Attendance: 116.