SKIPPER Richard Snowball and prop Dan Miller will play what is expected to be their final home game for Darlington against Orrell today.

Miller has agreed to join Mowden Park next season, along with scrum half Rob Stewart, while Snowball is expected to play for a National Two club.

All in their early 20s, the trio came up through Darlington's junior ranks together and the loss of two of them to Mowden will be a particularly big blow.

Chairman Bill Jones said: "As far as Dan is concerned the issues are mainly financial. He is buying a house and the money he is to receive from Mowden, which Darlington could not hope and would not wish to match, will help to fund the mortgage payments.

"Dan is a quality prop who has given the club tremendous service in progressing from the minis. He will be difficult to replace."

Confusion over the number of bonus points collected by West Park St Helens sees Darlington go into their last two matches still with a very faint hope of avoiding relegation from National Three North.

The latest league table shows West Park having one fewer point than previously thought, which means Darlington could survive if they achieve maximum points and the St Helens club gain none.

Two five-point hauls are feasible for Darlington as they have the bottom two clubs to play, while West Park play top-four sides. They entertain Preston Grasshoppers today then visit leaders Tynedale.

"We have been trying to get the situation confirmed," said Jones. "But it will be good to go into the match believing we can still escape, and from that point of view the timing of Dan's announcement could have been better.

"Rob Stewart's decision disappoints me immensely. The club has supported him financially when it could ill afford to do so after he broke his arm at Nuneaton the season before last, during which time he has played little rugby.

"I understand that Mowden intend to pay for an operation to remove the metal plate from his arm, which will speed his rehabilitation.

"I hope the operation is a success as Rob is too good a player to be lost to the game.

"We have been accused in some quarters of not being sufficiently ambitious.

"We always have been ambitious but that must be tempered by financial reality - we simply cannot spend money we have not got.

"We do have a certain amount of money available for next season which we will endeavour to spend wisely in an attempt to strengthen the team in key positions."

Darlington expect to have scrum half Sean Richardson back after a month's absence today, but No 8 Matt Holmes needs a back operation.

For the home game against Leicester Lions, Mowden include back row men Jon Dye, who has been out for two years following a hip operation, and Tim Wilks, who has also been injured.

They are required because Scott Riddell is in the Newcastle Falcons squad at the Melrose Sevens, Robbie Farenheim and Gavin Stainsby are also unavailable and Jason Smithson suffered a hamstring injury when he went on for the last half-hour of last week's Durham Cup final.

Mowden have only 22 fit players with first-team experience available and seven are front row men.

Ian Keeligan might have to play at lock if Iain Robinson fails a late fitness test on a groin injury, while hooker Mark Darlington will get on in the second half to replace Sean Buckley, who is not available for the final game at home to Rugby next week.

As Tynedale and Blaydon battle it out for automatic promotion, they have been rocked by the RFU floating a proposal to cut funding next season and pay only insurance premiums and travel costs.

Funding at National Two level could be cut by around £60,000.

If Tynedale pick up maximum points away to Rugby Lions today they will be confident of finishing top as they finish off at home to West Park, while Blaydon visit Preston next week after what should be the formality of earning five points at home to Hull Ionians today.

Blaydon have recalled Anthony Mellalieu at fly half, and with Ralph Smith returning at full back it means Dan Kyle has to settle for a game in the Durham Second Teams Cup final against Durham University at Bishop Auckland.

North Two East champions Middlesbrough hope to complete their season with a resounding win against Morpeth, while a home win for Durham City against Rochdale will send Horden down, even if they win at home to Old Crossleyans.

Two of the three teams neck and neck at the top of Durham and Northumberland One meet at Gateshead, who can clinch the automatic promotion spot by beating Northern.

That would leave Sunderland to contest a play-off against the Yorkshire One runners-up, assuming they win at home to Stockton, who bring in prop Tony Traynor and ex-Lancashire Schools flanker Chris Driver.