Mallards aggrieved as Granta go clear

Vauxhall Mallards chairman Roger Finney says his club feel aggrieved at the decision to allow EAPL title rivals Cambridge Granta to finish their season a week early.

Granta have reached the final of the ECB National Club Championship, a match which takes place on the same day as the final round of EAPL matches. To avoid a clash, the league committee moved Granta's final fixture, at Saffron Walden, to Bank Holiday Monday this week, but left all remaining final day fixtures to go ahead on September 17.

Granta subsequently won Monday's game to move 40 points clear at the top of the league. The race for the title, which had been building up to an exciting finish, could now potentially be over this weekend, if Granta extend their lead beyond 60 points when they travel to Bury St Edmunds tomorrow.

Finney believes the Cambridge side have been handed an unfair advantage: 'My point is that when Granta reached the quarter-finals of the national competition, the league should have put a contingency plan in place to move all of the final day fixtures forward to Bank Holiday Monday,' he said.

'I and the rest of our club feel very aggrieved. It leaves a real sour taste because the players give a lot of commitment to play in the league and for a decision to be made on the spur of the moment like this is out of order.'

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Mallards themselves entered the national competition, as did Swardeston, and Finney said he would not have expected any help from the league had his club reached the final: 'When we entered the competition, right at the start, we looked at the fixtures, which were out in March, so we could assess what clashes there would be with other competitions.

'We made a decision to enter and to put teams out accordingly. The fact that there was a potential clash should not really have come as a surprise to the league.

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'Some of the blame has to lie with the ECB for putting the final of a Sunday competition on a Saturday, but I also think the league committee should have used a bit of foresight.'

Finney now fears a scenario where Mallards' final fixture, at Horsford, is a victim of the weather. With Granta's points for that day already safely in the bag, it could potentially deny the Brundall club the title: 'When you get to September 17 the chances of getting results is naturally going to be lower,' he added.

Fellow title contenders Great Witchingham are now 52 points behind Granta and need victory at home to Norwich tomorrow to keep their title hopes alive.

The club's league representative, Graham Richardson, said that he felt the pressure had been taken off Granta by allowing them to forge ahead in the title race: 'We need them to lose a game and if we had all been playing on the same day there would have been more pressure on them,' he said. 'Congratulations to Granta for reaching the final – it shows how strong the EAPL is – but from our point of view, when it was known they were in the final, the league should have contacted the clubs and brought all the fixtures forward. That way everyone plays on the same day and there are no arguments.'

Peter Thomas, chairman of second-placed Swardeston, said he had no objections to the decision and added: 'Having sampled success in the national Club Twenty20 last year, we were happy as long as the game was played before the end of the season on September 17. You just have to admire Granta for getting there.'

League secretary Andy Abbott declined to comment on the issue.

Tomorrow, Mallards travel to Sudbury, while Swardeston are at home to Halstead. Horsford have little to play for, but could have a key role in the relegation issue, as they travel to Saffron Walden tomorrow before facing Norwich next week.

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