Acle Cricket Club taking heart after 2010 agony

Acle believe they were 'two inches' from survival last season, but they are now aiming to take the positives from that agonising finale.

Shaun Roberts' side went into the final match of the 2010 campaign knowing nothing less than victory against champions Downham could save them from the drop.

But they almost completed an unlikely great escape, and Roberts recalled: 'We batted first and got full points. We got a few early wickets before they came back into it, but then Paul Newman took a couple of late wickets and we had them nine down in the last over. Then the last ball of the match dropped just in front of second slip, so really we were two inches away from staying in the Premier Division.'

Despite that heartbreak, Roberts takes encouragement from his side's brave survival battle going into tomorrow's opening Division One match at home to Mattishall: 'Considering where we were with three games to go, we did well to get into a position where we had a chance, so we're looking to take that form into this season,' he said.

'Having no overseas players in Division One will strengthen our chances I think. I believe with the players we have got we are more than capable of going up and we won't find ourselves being beaten by an overseas player's contribution.

'I personally feel we are going to be the team to beat. Having dropped down from the Premier Division, teams will be trying to prove a point against us, but we'll be ready for that.'

Acle have lost the services of two of their promising young players, Tom Nudd and Joe Oakey, who have joined Brooke, but have been boosted by the news that Newman will be available all season. Norfolk U17 player Josh Wilson, a batsman who also bowls seamers, will join his brother, Tom, in the Acle side, while wicketkeeper/batsman Joe Press has joined from Norwich Bystanders.

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Roberts added: 'I'm really looking forward to it. We under-performed badly last year, but we need to keep the ball rolling from the end of the season. It's just a shame that we finished on the wrong side of it in the end, but I'm confident we can bounce straight back.

'The next couple of years are an important time for Acle, because we've got a few people who are close to retiring from the first team and looking to play lower down, so we've put a great deal of effort into the youth set-up.

'We had 50 youngsters at the youth nets last week and we've got Quorn Handley on board, with his vast knowledge, to coach them, so we're looking to build for the future and bring those young players through.'

Elsewhere in Division One, Bradenham have a new captain in Rob Thurley, who replaces Kevin Blakey. Thurley's university studies mean he will be unavailable for the first three games, with Steve Matthews deputising. Bradenham have also retained the services of two of their brightest young talents, county youth players Lewis Denmark – who has scored two centuries in pre-season – and Brett Stolworthy.

Old Buckenham have retained the majority of the side relegated last year, with Terry Perry again leading the team. Ian Harrison has left to join Downham, but Bucks have a new bowling all-rounder in 27-year-old James Hay, who has moved to the area.

The Premier Division got underway last week and two sides who enjoyed convincing opening day wins go head to head tomorrow. Newly promoted Sprowston, who won by six wickets at Lowestoft, host Brooke, who beat Vauxhall Mallards A by 153 runs.

Champions Downham look to get their season up and running at home to Lowestoft after last weekend's surprise defeat at Diss.

In Division Two, newly-promoted Hethersett & Tas Valley host Dereham, while Horsford A, who also came up last year, are at home to Downham A.

Among the first action of the season in Division Four, last year's Division Five champions Cromer A travel to Narborough.

Divisions Three, Five and Six all started last weekend.