REIGNING road race league champions City of Salisbury men’s team’s hopes of retaining the title this season suffered a setback on the rolling hills of the Alton 10mile race on Sunday.

With only two more fixtures remaining, they needed a solid team performance against strong challengers Stubbington Green AC and Lordshill Runners – but in the near-gale force headwinds on the final four miles, it was not to be.

An excellent show of strength from Chris Southern, whose 57min 8sec gave him seventh place behind winner Totton RC’s Nick Buis with 54.59, plus another fine run from Ben Brewster in eighth spot with 57.23 and a gritty 58.53 from Stuart Holloway despite an injury were not enough to prevent the Salisbury squad from being pushed down the pecking order by the absence of a high-placed fourth points scorer.

It fell to Andy Budgell, just back from a long-term injury, to complete the quartet and although his 70.09 marked a fine return to racing it wasn’t sufficient to keep several of the club’s keenest rivals from finishing ahead of him and pushing Salisbury down the order.

Much now rests on the outcome of the Netley 10k this weekend and the D-Day 10k on June 8 to decide this season’s men’s team result but Salisbury’s prospects look much less secure than they did.

It was a brighter picture in the ladies’ race. Faye Parker sped round the course to notch one of her best ever road results, her first-class time of 66.37 earning her an excellent third place overall.

Sally Greenslade also outperformed much of the competition with a pleasing 71.39, and close behind was Ruth Thom who completed the three-tocount team with a well-judged 73.17.

Winchester ladies won the team competition on the day but Salisbury looked likely to hold on to their second place in the vital league team standings.

Other Salisbury finishers were: Nick Willetts 73.50, James Horton 74.27, John Ruskin 78.15, Andy Robbins 88.32, Liz Roberts 89.10 and Will Witt 98.25.