Sprowston’s main goal is still survival
Sprowston captain Simon Chipperfield admits he would happily trade cup glory for Norfolk Alliance Premier Division survival this season.
Chipperfield's side have forced their way into the semi-finals of all three major cup competitions – but last year's runners-up have seen their league form suffer and they currently lie two places above the relegation zone.
Despite being on the verge of a cup final appearance, league safety remains the priority for Chipperfield: 'I would take survival over a cup win,' he said. 'We sat down at the start of the season and most of the players agreed that it is all about survival.
'We all knew it would be harder than last year. We wanted to have a good cup run as well, so to be in three semi-finals is far better than we thought.
'A lot of the junior players have found it very easy to get up for the big cup games, but in the league, we did well last year and they have just relaxed a bit and we're having second season blues at the moment. They know they are good enough to perform at that level, but we're just struggling to find that consistency.'
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Asked if he believed Sprowston could go on and win the Carter Cup, NACO Cup or Norfolk Twenty20, Chipperfield said: 'Yes, I think so. The NACO Cup is probably our best chance because it is just Alliance sides, but having beaten Horsford in the Carter Cup we don't fear any of the big boys and in the Twenty20 if you have a few good overs you can win the game.
'So potentially we could win all three, but we realise it could go the other way and we could end up with nothing. If we can get to just one of the finals though it would be a massive boost for the club.'
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With the season at the halfway stage, Chipperfield views the next three weeks as crucial for Sprowston: 'When we looked at the fixtures at the start of the season we had Diss, Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers and Acle in our first three games and we knew it was important to get off to a good start like we did last year,' he said.
'Unfortunately the weather didn't help us and we only got one and a half of those three games in, so we were then straight into the likes of Norwich, Downham and Fakenham. We really needed those early games to get us going, but now I suppose the season is starting again and these next three weeks could make or break our season.'
With little sign of the poor weather relenting, the Sprowston captain is feeling the frustration of all club cricketers this summer: 'I don't dare look at the weather reports any more!' he said. 'We had a period of 24 days where we spent 13 evenings at the club mopping up and trying to get games on, but I think in that time we managed to get one game on. The players exhausted themselves with the amount of time we spent at the club, it has been really annoying.'
That willingness of members to pitch in makes Chipperfield confident that the club has a bright future: 'All I need to do is send a text out and I know there will be an abundance of people turning up at the club to help,' he said. 'I don't think people at the club realise just how big it can be. I can see it because I've come in in the last couple of years, so I'm looking at it as an outsider, but the potential here is massive.'
While former East Anglian Premier League players Chipperfield and Rob Purton have been consistent performers for Sprowston, seamer Andy Hanby has been particularly impressive and he made his debut for Norfolk's Development side this week.
Sprowston have continued to be competitive despite steadfastly refusing to bring in an overseas player – but Chipperfield admits that policy may have to change eventually: 'We want to try and build a side before we look for an overseas player who can take us to the next level,' he said. 'To progress we will have to look at it and I think the people who were not too keen are coming around to the idea.
'The fact is that we can compete in the league, but to go on and win it you're going to have to match the other teams who have good overseas players. In the games we have lost it has literally been the overseas players who are the difference between the sides and that's obviously what we lack.
'But it is the tightest and strongest I have seen the Alliance since the East Anglian Premier League was formed, which can only be good for local cricket.'