No certainties says Sidmouth captain + every point counts says Staddon
SIDMOUTH skipper Luke Bess will remind his players there are no certainties in the Premier Division before his table-topping side face Plymouth on the Fortfield.
While Sidmouth have been at the top since round seven, Plymouth have been engaged in a battle to dodge the drop.
Last Saturday’s win over Bovey Tracey hoisted Plymouth 19 points clear of the drop zone, but does not mean they are safe yet.
The omens may point to a Sidmouth win – one of the two they need to close out the title race – but Bess is wary of Plymouth.
“Plymouth put 300 on us last time we played them,” said Bess.
”They may be lower in the table than previous years but there won't be any complacency from us heading into Saturday.”
Hundreds from Bess and Dan Powell saw Sidmouth to victory when the sides last met.
Scott Barlow isn’t available this week, which means a change in the bowling attack.
Plymouth’s form has improved in recent weeks, sufficiently to lift them out of the bottom two.
They have to stay ahead of Cornwood to avoid the drop and losing at Sidmouth could put them back in jeopardy.
“We have won our last two games and players are all contributing to each win,” said Plymouth captain Sam Stein.
“This is a positive sign going into the last four games of the season.
“We are all looking forward to the challenge of facing Sidmouth and want to come away with a good result.
“It's a very good place to play cricket, the pitch is always very good and I feel that this will suit our players very well.”
EXMOUTH’S run of fixtures against relegation candidates continues when Cornwood visit the Maer.
Exmouth went to Brixham and won last week – sending them back down to the A Division before the end of their first season back in the Premier Division.
Cornwood are in the second relegation place with 19 points between them and North Devon, who are currently safe.
Exmouth still have to play North Devon – and Bovey Tracey, who are also looking anxiously behind them.
Team news from the Maer is that seamer Alvin Pollard and keeper-batter Sandy Allen are back in for Fin Marks and Jack England.
Cornwood show a couple of changes with Mark Roca coming back in along with Andrew Bees.
“Another tough game ahead but one we look forward to,” said Cornwood captain Elliot Staddon.
“Exmouth are a top side and we will need to be at best to contain them and put ourselves in a position to win the game.
“Every point counts for us now and we have to fight for each one.”
SECOND-placed Exeter go to Torquay resigned to missing out on the title.
The maths may say Exeter can still catch Sidmouth, but captain Miles Lenygon won’t have it.
“Sidmouth have won the league so we want to finish as high as possible,” said Lenygon.
“Torquay is a tough place to win at, but we are playing well at the minute and hopefully can get a good win,”
Exeter will be without Ben Green and Dom Bess, both of whom are with England U19s for the one-day series against Sri Lanka that ends next week.
Torquay are unchanged from the win over North Devon and keen to finish the season on a high.
Skipper Justin Yau thinks relegation isn’t a threat any more and wants to finish as high as possible.
“Hopefully we can get some consistency together and finish the season well,” said Yau.
“Looking at the table, we should be safe now and it would be great if we could play with freedom and the way I know we can play in the last four games.
“We have a very tough next few games - Exeter, Exmouth, Sidmouth - and must try and accumulate as many points as we can to keep ourselves in the mix for a top-five finish.”
BOVEY Tracey still have some work to do to steer clear of relegation after they lost to Plymouth.
North Devon visit Ashburton Road tomorrow in a game both sides need to win.
Both are hovering above the drop zone and could be sucked in of they lose.
Bovey vice-captain Matt Golding said Bovey’s league position should improve in the last month of the season.
“We have been without Malcolm Lake and his brother Andy, who have been in Zimbabwe visiting family, and Sam Hickinbottom has been out with shoulder trouble,” said Golding, who is deputising for Hickinbottom.
“It was great to get Chris Bradley back playing and he has said he may be available for a few more games now.
“With all those players back I am confident we have the quality in the side to get the results we need.”
When the two sides met in the first half of the season Bovey won by 26 runs to oust North Devon from top spot in the table.
Lake will be back and Hickinbottom is confident of being fit.
HEATHCOAT skipper Brad Barnes has a second-place finish in his sights after giving up on winning the title
A seven-wicket defeat by Sidmouth last time out ended Heathcoat’s own title hopes.
Heathcoat have never finished higher than third in the Premier Division – that was in 1997 when Gareth Townsend scored 792 runs and Stuart Macgill took 88 wickets – so second would be an achievement.
“Hopefully we can win the last four games of the season,” said Barnes, whose side face relegated Brixham this Saturday.
“If we end up second place it would be the best finish in the club’s Premier history.
“And if we manage to do that, I will say it's a very successful season.”
Heathcoat would expect to beat Brixham, who are resigned to relegation.
Barnes said expectations don’t win matches though.
“Even though Brixham have already been relegated, we don't want to be complacent,” said Barnes.
“We need to play the way we have for 80 per cent of this season.”