Norfolk Alliance Premier Division champions Downham Town are expecting a big challenge
- Credit: Archant
Captain Duncan Lanchester expects the winning mentality in the Downham Town dressing room will inspire a determined title defence.
The club's 50-year-old stalwart insists his championship-winning squad are not the best team in the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division.
But after not finishing outside of the top three for the past eight campaigns, Lanchester admits his troops have an advantage over all of their rivals – because they simply know how to get the job done.
The skipper, who takes his team to Swardeston A for their season opener tomorrow, said: 'At the start of any season we say the same thing. When it gets to the turnaround and half of the fixtures are done we want to be in the frame. In the last seven or eight years at the halfway stage we have been. We haven't always been the best team, we certainly weren't last year, but it doesn't always matter.
'We got beaten by Fakenham (runners-up) twice last season, we lost some games, and that's life. I don't think we'll be the best team in the league this year either.
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'There's some good sides about. Fakenham, a few EAPL lads have gone back to Cromer, Sprowston are always good and Brooke look tidy. I'm not saying we're not a good side, we've got good players, some very good ones, but we don't just rely on our pro.
'It's nice if they win you games, that's what they're there for, but since Steve Murdoch – who scored over 1,000 runs in a season which speaks for itself – we've got enough experience in our team to make sure our pro doesn't have to be getting 60, 70 or 100 in every match.
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'We've got a lot of players who are experienced, can step up in matches, and are not used to losing too often. Winning breeds winning and that's what we'll aim to do.'
Openers Addam Todd (finger) and Alex Stuart (knee) will miss the top-flight curtain raiser with Jason Coe and Tom Tansley stepping up from the seconds to fill the void. Impressive New Zealand Under-19s all-rounder Nick Kelly, 21, Downham's overseas professional for 2015, is in line to make his competitive debut.
The side Town pipped on the final-day to end their four-year wait to win the league, Fakenham, visit promoted Brooke while Stow – who came up as Division One champions – travel to Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers.
In other fixtures Old Buckenham host Sprowston and Cromer entertain Diss.
Cromer secured something of a coup by persuading David Turner to return to the club from Vauxhall Mallards, who play at a higher level in the Gibbs Denley East Anglian Premier League.
The batsman scored almost 500 league runs last term so will be an excellent addition to the team as they bid to improve on last's season's solid fourth place finish.
The line-up will be further strengthened by the signing of a new overseas player in the shape of 21-year-old Australian batsman Damien Sweet.
A replacement for South African all-rounder Bilaal Samsoodien, Sweet comes to north Norfolk highly recommended by Cromer's Michael Warnes, who played alongside him in grade cricket for Great Boulder CC in Kalgoorie, Western Australia.
'We are very excited to have David and Damien with us,' said Cromer CC chairman and youth development officer Kent Laws.
'When you add them to the good players we already have here there's a lot of optimism around the club and everyone here is really looking forward to the season getting under way.'
Off the field a new sponsor is in place, with The Grove restaurant in Cromer backing the club, while plenty of work has been carried out at the ground, with improvements inside the clubhouse and a new concreted area outside it.
The pitch has also come in for some tender loving care, with the club confident they have multiple strips more than worth of Alliance top flight cricket.