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Fakenham poised for big game - but they don’t know yet who it will be against

PUBLISHED: 09:03 14 September 2018

Fakenham skipper David Coyle in full flight Picture: MIKE WYATT

Fakenham skipper David Coyle in full flight Picture: MIKE WYATT

Mike Wyatt ABIPP

Fakenham face one of their biggest matches for a number of years on Sunday - but they still don’t know who it will be against!

David Coyle’s side have spent the last three weeks preparing for an East Anglian Premier League play-off semi-final, having clinched the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division title last month.

The match will be against the bottom side in the EAPL, but that league doesn’t reach its conclusion until Saturday, with Bury St Edmunds and Norwich involved in what looks like a head-to-head battle to avoid the play-off game and Vauxhall Mallards also just about in the mix.

Norwich are 10 points ahead of Bury going into the final round of games, but they round off their campaign at leaders Saturday while their rivals are at Frinton, who have nothing but pride to play for.

Mallards would only be in danger if both sides won - and even then would only need to pick up seven bonus points from their fixture against Mildenhall to be sure of staying up.

Fakenham are likely to have to wait to around 8pm on Saturday to learn which team they will be taking on in a 50 overs per side match that will be getting under way at 11am the following day.

Originally Fakenham were told they would be the away side in the semi-final, but the situation changed in midweek when it emerged that the grounds of Bury St Edmunds and Mallards would not be available for a game on Sunday.

That means Fakenham will be at home if one of those two sides finish bottom, but they will still be away, at Postwick, if it is Norwich.

Skipper David Coyle, who expressed his displeasure with the situation last week, remains unhappy that his side will be taking on a team who finished bottom in a play-off. But he admitted the possibility of a home game in the semi-finals had provided a small boost.

“We still don’t know where we will be playing - but at least we now know that the furthest we will be travelling is to the other side of Norwich,” he said. “We could also be at home, which would be good, but the uncertainly is still there.”

Fakenham know the reward for victory on Sunday would be an away game on Saturday week against the winners of the other semi-final between Suffolk side Worlington and one of three Cambs and Hunts Premier League teams.

EAPL secretary Andy Abbott has explained the reasons behind the uncertainty surrounding this season’s play-offs.

“There are 10 teams in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division and 11 in the two other feeder leagues so obviously their seasons will last for an extra couple of weeks and there will be a wait for the Alliance champions,” he said. “Also we had to delay the start of our season for a week because of the wet spring so that hasn’t helped.

“As far as bringing the bottom side in the EAPL into the equation that was something we voted on before the season started. It was felt that the play-offs were unbalanced, with only three teams involved and one going straight through to the final.”

The finals of the Mid Norfolk League’s two midweek competitions are being staged at Fakenham on Saturday.

North Runcton will be taking on Hethersett and Tas Valley in the Hunts County Bats Norfolk Senior Cup while Swaffham and Topcroft will going heead to the in the Junior Cup, which is sponsored by the same company.

Proceedings get under way with the junior final at 11am, with the senior final following at 2pm.

The competition has an unusual format, with 16 eight ball overs and time restrictions to ensure that the momentum is maintained. The sponsors will be presenting a bespoke £300 bat to the winners of the man-of-the-match award in both finals.

The umpires will be Mervyn Mann and Les Dunger.

The Norfolk Junior Cup was first won in 1891 by Cromer while the Senior Cup dates back to 1884 when it was won by Norwich side Princes Street. The trophy disappeared for 47 years until the late Derek Cousins, a former secretary and treasurer of the NCB, discovered it at the back of a wardrobe.

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