Downham stay 16 points clear at top of Norfolk Alliance after narrow win

Stephen Gray led the way as Swardeston won at Burwell and Exning to keep the pressure on leaders Sud

Stephen Gray led the way as Swardeston won at Burwell and Exning to keep the pressure on leaders Sudbury Picture: TIM FERLEY - Credit: Archant

Downham Town came through a big test of their credentials to stay on course for a second successive Norfolk Alliance Premier Division title.

The long-time leaders, who had lost three games out of four before the weekend, were pushed all the way by visitors Brooke before edging home by 11 runs.

With two rounds of matches left the hard-fought win left them 16 points ahead of title rivals Fakenham, who had more than a few scares before seeing off a brave challenge from relegation threatened Cromer.

After being asked to bat first Downham recovered from 22-3 to reach 219-8, with Nathan Green (67) and Pat Yates (43) making the key contributions and John Habershon taking 3-38.

Rob Setchell (58) and Flynn Drinkell (45) batted well in reply but with Harrison Gregory taking 3-15 the visitors fell just short on 208-8.

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Over at Highfield Lawn Fakenham were grateful for a knock of 88 from Luke Caswell as they hit back from the depths of 28-4 to reach a competitive 228-7. It proved just enough, with the visitors finishing on 220-7 (Frankie Sutton 50).

Cromer dropped into the relegation places as a result, with Acle moving just above them by virtue of the 16 points they picked up from a dramatic tie at fellow strugglers at Old Buckenham.

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After being asked to bat first the Bucks were dismissed for 140 and they then bowled the opposition out for exactly the same total to share the spoils.

Dereham all but clinched promotion when they cruised to victory at Lowestoft, who look doomed to relegation from Division One. The consistent Jake Anema took 6-11 to help dismiss the hosts for just 74 after the leaders had made 219-6, thanks largely to an unbeaten 102 from David Lake.

Dereham need just two points from two games to go up - a mere formality surely - while Thetford are firm favourites to join them in the top flight after winning again to retain a 40-point advantage over Topcroft. They chased down Beccles's 211-9 in the 47th over with three wickets in hand as skipper Liam Conroy followed figures of 4-42 with a brilliant 120 featuring 20 fours and a six.

Matthew Wilkinson (165 not out) and John Ratledge (108) featured in a partnership of 251 as Horsford A made 331-3 against Sprowston before winning by 166 runs.

Swaffham clinched promotion to Division One of the Norfolk Alliance with two games to spare after completing a comfortable win over bottom side Great Melton.

Despite a brave unbeaten 59 from Connor Stearman, Melton were dismissed for just 111, with Tony Exley taking 4-12 in three overs.

Swaffham skipper Jasper Payne had a rare failure in reply, being bowled for a fifth ball duck, but his brother Alec made an unbeaten 68 as the hosts won it in the 30th over for the loss of just two further wickets.

Martham are firm favourites to claim the other promotion spot, with their comfortable win at Mattishall lifting them 26 points clear of third placed Ashmanhaugh and Barton Wanderers, who were well beaten by Great Witchingham A.

Martham made 232 before bowling out their relegation threatened hosts for 127, while Wanderers were beaten by six wickets after being skittled out for 99 (Matthew Burton 4-27).

Garboldisham A moved to within touching distance of the Division Three title after squeezing past Fakenham A by two wickets in a low-scoring game, but the performance of the day in this section came in Bradenham's match at Brooke A.

The fixture was lit up by an amazing display of big hitting from Alex Bates who made 50 in just 13 balls before reaching 86 in 26. Will Dewing (65) and Josh Watts (58) also impressed in a formidable Bradenham total of 324-8, with Brooke making 205-6 in reply.

Hockwold got the win they needed to confirm promotion from Division Four, beating Stow A by 79 runs.

Joel Gilmour scored an unbeaten 103, his prolific brother Euan 40 and Roy Bland 63 in a total of 259-8 before Dan Ward made 65 in a reply of 180.

Barring a late collapse Sheringham will be going up with them. The Lobsters went marching on at the weekend, restricting Beccles A to 122-9 before romping home by eight wickets, the star men being James Platt (4-29) and Will Moy (71).

There was a disappointing twist to the promotion race in Division Five, with second-placed Denver being gifted 25 points by Lowestoft A's decision not to travel because of a lack of available players. The walk-over left Denver in pole position to go up with champions-elect Cromer A.

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