PRESTWICH Heys' hopes of making the Hallmark Security League First Division play-offs are all but over after two more defeats during the Easter weekend.

Jon Lyons' men gave themselves half a chance of catching sixth-placed Sandbach United with a gutsy 3-2 win at Bacup last Wednesday.

But a 3-0 loss at home to leaders Charnock Richard on Saturday was compounded by a 1-0 defeat at mid-table Carlisle City on Monday.

The latest blows to their promotion chances follow a punishing run of nine matches in 24 days, which have included three wins, five defeats and a draw.

They now have four matches in a week remaining, but are nine points behind Sandbach with a game in hand.

Heys must now win at fourth-placed City of Liverpool on Saturday to make sure that there is something riding on their showdown at home to Sandbach on Monday night.

Victories in both those matches, and three points at relegated Eccleshall on Wednesday, would definitely keep the Adie Moran Park outfit in with a shout of the play-offs going into the final day on April 29, when Heys entertain fifth-placed Whitchurch Alport.

Sandbach, meanwhile, have fixtures against two teams in the bottom half, at Holker Old Boys and at home to Stockport Town, either side of their match against Heys.

Their destiny is largely out of their own hands, and if Heys' last two tired performances are anything to go by, it looks like they could be running out of gas at just the wrong time.

They showed very little fight at 15th-placed Carlisle City on Monday.

Heys were forced to chase the match from the moment Jamie Heath put the home side in front on 14 minutes, but did not really show any attacking threat until the final quarter-of-an-hour.

Mark Baguley made several fine saves to keep the visitors in it, to no avail.

More than 200 fans watched Heys take on the leaders on Saturday and it was the visiting supporters who went home the happier after Charnock Richard dominated.

Carl Grimshaw, the division's top scorer, helped himself to a hat-trick as his side continued their march towards automatic promotion.

While Lyons' men may not have expected anything from the match against the champions-elect, they will have been disappointed not to build on their battling performance against Bacup.

They played some sparkling football in the first half at the Brian Boys' Stadium to open a 3-1 lead courtesy of goals from Michael Itela, Jake Wood and Chris Baguley, the latter a 30-yard blockbuster.

Although the hosts pulled a goal back in the second period Heys showed plenty of grit and determination to hang on for the win.

Heys' reserves, meanwhile, suffered successive defeats last week, losing 2-1 at home to Bolton County and 3-1 at Leigh Athletic.

They are now six points behind Manchester League Division One leaders Heyside, but have four games in hand.

The reserves are at home to Boothstown on Saturday (kick off 3pm) and away at Breightmet United on Tuesday (6.45pm).