Fakenham strive for survival in play-off

Fakenham chairman Martin Turner believes it is vital for the club to retain their East Anglian Premier League status in the winner-takes all play-off at Sudbury tomorrow.

Fakenham chairman Martin Turner believes it is vital for the club to retain their East Anglian Premier League status in the winner-takes all play-off at Sudbury tomorrow.

After finishing bottom of the table, Fakenham must travel to the Two Counties League champions for a

50-over showdown to decide who will be in the EAPL next season.

Turner said: "It is vitally important because we have got a lot of youngsters coming through and the club has always wanted to compete at the top level. We have got youngsters who are keen to play EAPL cricket and if we did slip down there is a chance we could lose them, which would be such a shame after we have coached them through.

"They have also gained a lot of experience this year and with another year of coaching from our captain, Michael Smith, that would certainly help us to be stronger next season.

"Early on in the season some of the batsmen were inexperienced batting on wet wickets and if we could have had a first half of the season like the second half, we would not be in this position. I don't think any team has finished bottom with 153 points before and we actually got more bonus points than last year."

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Fakenham have been boosted by the news that Smith has managed to re-arrange his flight back to South Africa and gained permission from his home club, Warriors, so that he can play tomorrow. He has also indicated that he will return to Fakenham next year, regardless of which division they are in.

The main danger to Fakenham's hopes tomorrow comes from Smith's compatriot, Jon Kent, who has played one-day international cricket for South Africa.

He has averaged more than 90 with the bat for Sudbury this year as well as picking up a host of wickets opening the bowling.

But Turner said: "We are quietly confident we can do what we need to do and morale is high. The way that this season has gone, we certainly know that anything can happen.

"I can't speak for the Two Counties League, but there is a big division between the EAPL and the Norfolk Alliance, so we hope the experience we have got will allow us to be the better side on the day."

Fakenham are expected to be at full strength tomorrow, with Norfolk seamer Ian Slegg leading the attack.

The match will also have a significant bearing for four Norfolk Alliance sides.

The runners-up in Divisions One, Two and Three - Swardeston, Bradenham and Mundford - are waiting to hear if they will be promoted. If Fakenham win tomorrow, all three go up, but if Fakenham lose and drop down to the Alliance, promotion for runners-up will be rescinded in order to maintain the same number of teams in each division.

A Fakenham defeat would also mean one extra team dropping out of the Alliance and Ashmanhaugh, who finished third from bottom in Division Three, would make an immediate return to the Knights Norfolk League.