Whitehaven are cast in the role of reluctant bystanders this weekend without a League One fixture.

The late withdrawal of Hemel Stags left the division with just 11 clubs, which means one club without a fixture each week.

It also only gives the clubs 10 home games in a season, which is considered far too few in the continual battle to beat the cash flow issues.

Haven coach Gary Charlton said: “I’m not looking forward to a blank weekend. I would have much sooner been playing. After a defeat you really just want to get out there and make amends, working on what went wrong and putting them right as soon as possible.”

Whitehaven suffered their first defeat of the season on Sunday, going under 36-12 to title favourites Oldham.

But they are the odd team out on Sunday and don’t have another League One game until March 17 when Doncaster visit the Recreation Ground.

However, they are back in action next weekend when they host National Conference League One side Wigan St. Patrick’s in the Coral Challenge Cup.

Meanwhile League One rivals Newcastle Thunder, put in as second favourites for the title three weeks ago, have sacked coach Jason Payne. He was in charge for just two matches – a narrow home defeat by Doncaster and an equally close defeat at Coventry.

Newcastle have announced they were releasing him from his position and that Payne will now take a three-month break from all duties, with his future involvement to be discussed thereafter.

Payne has been with the club for well over a decade, serving as a player and a coach – but assistant coach Tim Rumford and Academy manager Michael Heap will be in caretaker charge of the team ahead of this weekend’s trip to London Skolars.

Newcastle Thunder chairman Mick Hogan said: “After further investment in the 2019 squad, we have not started the season as we had hoped and in what is a relatively short campaign, we have had to act decisively in the best interests of the club.”