THE future of a North-East football club is likely to be secured because a winding up order against it is expected to be dismissed this morning.

A legal row between Billingham Town and Hartlepool United erupted over a disputed £10,443.97 debt owed by the nonleague club.

Town was facing extinction if it lost the legal battle at Middlesbrough County Court.

The Football League club uses Town’s ground for some reserve games and issued the writ saying it was owed money it spent on maintenance and repairs.

But Billingham Town insisted that the agreement was made by a former regime and maintained there was no money to pay.

Last night, Billingham issued a statement claiming the dispute had been resolved after an anonymous third party settled the alleged debt.

It read: “We are delighted to be able to announce that the winding up petition presented by Hartlepool United Football Club Limited is to be dismissed and that the legal proceedings which have threatened the very existence of the club are now at an end.

“On December 17 and 18, our legal representative was asked by solicitors acting for Hartlepool United to agree to the hearing being adjourned for 60 days. We rejected both requests as we dispute – as we always have done – that we are under any liability to Hartlepool United.

“The solicitors for Hartlepool United and the club itself threatened to apply to adjourn the hearing anyway. Those threats were never carried out and the application to adjourn never materialised.

“Instead, Hartlepool United have apparently found ‘a third party willing to make payment in full of all sums claimed under the winding up petition’. This was nothing to do with us and we do not even known the identity of that third party. We continue to maintain that we do not owe Hartlepool United so much as a penny and have not made any payment at all in settlement of these proceedings.

“Obviously, it is a tremendous relief to the club that this threat to its existence is now resolved.

We never doubted that the case would be resolved in this way and we have been proved right.”

Welcoming the move, Northern League chairman Mike Amos said: “That is wonderful news for the club and especially its chairman, Tommy Donnelly, who has been at the club since it formed.

“Hopefully, both clubs will be able to put this behind them and move on with playing football.”

A Hartlepool United spokesman declined to comment.