THURROCK are at risk of being relegated after the Football Association confirmed the club has been charged with fielding a suspended player.

Fleet, who secured their Ryman Premier League status with one game to spare and by just two points, risk having points docked after the FA charged the club with playing Joel Barnett on four occasions, despite him being on a West Riding FA suspension list from 2009.

Tilbury have also been charged with 11 alleged breaches by fielding the same player and risk being docked a greater number of points given that Barnett scored seven goals for Dockers, but while it would mean Paul Vaughan’s men finish in a lower league position, the overall impact on their season is minimal.

For Thurrock though, who beat Lewes 2 – 0 on August 25 with Barnett in the side, the risk of relegation looms large. The deduction of just two points would see Fleet and Carshalton Athletic swap places.

Barnett made four appearances for Fleet at the beginning of the season, helping them to three points and scoring once before moving to Tilbury, where he scored seven goals in 13 appearances.

In October, Ryman Division One North side Redbridge, were charged with fielding a suspended player during their 1-1 draw with Ware. They had that point deducted.

While Cheshunt, in the same league, had three points deducted for playing a suspended player during the period August 24 to September 4. They picked up six league points in that time, but were docked three.

It was Harlow Town who flagged up the issue of Barnett’s suspension in January when they signed him from Tilbury, but refused to play him after discovering he was suspended for historical debt at a former club, in Yorkshire, that had folded.

But Mark Southgate is confident Thurrock will not have points docked or a guilty verdict returned against them. He said: “We’re going to appeal it but I wouldn’t have thought we’ll be docked points.

“If it was going to be done, it would have been done many, many months ago.

“We’re talking about this now, but it came about in January. It’s the way the appeals process goes but it’s a bit too late to be charging clubs. It’s a cock up by the league and by the FA. I don’t think there will be a guilty verdict.

“People have known about it for some time but there’s not much we can say at the moment. We’ve just got to get the hearing out the way which we hope will be on May 24.”

Barnett, who now runs a bar in Leeds, has been charged with 14 alleged breaches, while Bishop’s Stortford have been charged with four.

It is understood all three clubs are appealing the charge.