TWO of Shropshire's leading football clubs face an extended spell on the sidelines.

Ellesmere Rangers Football Club and St Martins Football Club have both been told the North West Counties League will not resume until December 19 due to the tiered lockdown system to come into force in England.

The move will affect 40 clubs who will find themselves in tier three areas as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision centres on the league's stance that football at level five and six of the English pyramid is not sustainable without supporters and with a majority of its clubs now banned from welcoming fans to fixtures the league has suspended the season.

A league statement read: "The league will review the decision again on December, 16 once the UK Government has reviewed the tier levels.

"However, should the situation remain the same in relation to spectators being excluded from matches, then the restart will likely be postponed until Saturday, January 2.

"In addition, the management committee also agreed that in the event fixtures resume on 19th, then clubs can agree to switch their Boxing Day fixtures to December 28th, 29th or 30th to allow volunteers, management and players to take advantage of the relaxation of rules allowing families to come together for Christmas.

"The league will continue to work with clubs to manage the challenges faced due to the pandemic, and will work with the FA in pushing the Government to allow spectators back into stadia at steps five and six.

"If this is not possible, then only the provision of grant funding for clubs would allow football to resume behind closed doors.

Ellesmere Rangers Football Club manager Connor Courtney insisted public health had to come first.

He said: "It has been a frustrating couple of months with starting and stopping but health and well-being has to come first during this pandemic.

"Personally I don’t think we will play until January.

"With us being in tier two, we can still hopefully train and get together to keep ticking over.

"I do feel for the clubs who rely on the fans to stay alive with income and clubs who have invested a lot of money to try and get out of the league.

"We have been told the season will finish so we will be looking forward to be back playing a lot of football whenever that may be."

Meanwhile Salop Leisure League sides Gobowen Celtic and Morda United will return after the end of the latest English lockdown.

A Celtic spokesman said: "We are set to resume on December 12 at home to Bridgnorth Development; followed by an away trip to Steam Wagon before the Christmas break.

"We are having a team training session on the December 5 following the end of lockdown which will be our first get together since October 16."