PORTHMADOG’s capitulation at Gresford Athletic is the latest worrying sign for a club that is now in real danger of relegation.

This would have been inconceivable during the summer following Port’s third place finish in the final Huws Gray Alliance campaign, but they are now staring the prospect of third tier football in the face after shipping seven second half goals against a resurgent Athletic outfit after holding a lead heading into the break.

A significant number of changes during the pre-season did not help their progression, which also saw manager Craig Papirnyk step down from a role he quickly returned to once things began to go a little bit sour at Y Traeth.

The damage may already be done, but the manager is a hugely respected figure both around the club and across the region and worked incredibly hard during the January transfer window to bring in some significant reinforcements in the hope of dramatically change their fortunes.

Their front line is littered with experience and talent, including the return of Cai Jones and Shaun Cavanagh from Caernarfon Town, securing the services of Josh Davies following his prolific spell with Melville United in New Zealand and already boasting the likes of Jay Gibbs, John Owen, Iddon Price, Paul Pritchard and Ceri James within their ranks.

These new arrivals may take time to re-acclimatise themselves with the set-up, and time is something that Port do not have.

They are currently five points adrift of fifth-from-bottom Llangefni Town with a game in hand, but lie three behind Buckley Town having played three more times than their relegation rivals.

This is further proof of the task awaiting them during a critical run of fixtures that begins with a daunting trip to runaway JD Cymru North leaders Prestatyn Town this weekend.

Although it is probably the last game you would want when coming off such a demoralising defeat, it could also prove to be a spark given they have little to lose and can go there knowing that little is expected of them in terms of securing a result against the all-conquering Seasiders.

This will be a stern test of character and Papirnyk will find out more about his players this weekend that he did last.

How you react to adversity both individually and collectively is the sort of thing that either gets you out or trouble or condemns your fate, and this is a close-knit group who will now have to rally like never before in order to retain their second tier status.

They might be in a false position with the gifted players Port has at its disposal, but we have seen time and time again that having a good side on paper does not give you the right to ply your trade at JD Cymru North level.

It must be earned and fought for every game.

Papirnyk will make his side aware of this in no uncertain terms during a critical few weeks that also sees them come up against Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Ruthin Town and Buckley Town, which will go a long way to determining their fate.

Each squad member is now left with a simple choice, to slump and expect the inevitable or fight for every tackle, header and goal-scoring chance to give them a fighting chance of avoiding the drop.

Port’s campaign to date has been a curious case and another warning to other high-flying clubs punching above their weight on the implications of too much change and an element of complacency.