Sandford snatch last-day win to avoid relegation and deny Heathcoat first title
SANDFORD skipper Richard Foan stroked an unbeaten century to earn a four-wicket win over title-chasers Heathcoat that kept his side in the Premier Division for another year.
It has been a long time since there has been so much to play for at either end of the Tolchards Devon League table on the last day of the season.
Leaders Heathcoat, second-placed Sidmouth and Exeter in third were in with a chance of winning the title.
Down at the bottom the pressure was on Bradninch, Sandford and North Devon to avoid going down with doomed Hatherleigh.
Only Exmouth, Plymouth and Bovey Tracey had nothing resting on the final day – and all were up against teams with a good reason to win.
Heathcoat skipper Peter Randerson knew they would be champions if they defeated Sandford, but a defeat would open the door for either Sidmouth or Exeter to go past his side.
Sandford captain Foan knew his side had to take at least two more points out of the game than Bradninch earned at Plymouth to stay up. The best way to do that was chase a 200-plus total to win and skim off as many bonus points as possible.
Sandford won to stay up and deny Heathcoat a first Premier title. Bradninch won at Plymouth, but dropped too many bonus points to get past Sandford to reach safety.
Heathcoat reached 217 for nine in their 50 overs, no on making more than Jack Dart (57). Reid Mawdsley (43) and Randerson (20) chipped in. Man of the match Foan took four wickets for 34 runs.
Foan opened up with Freddie Filor, who got out first ball, and settled in for the duration on his way to 109 not out.
Along the way there were stands of 78 with Charles Fitzroy (25), 44 with Neil Bettis (26), 42 with Adrian Small (27) and 55 unbroken with Chris Jelley (20no).
Considering Sandford only won one game in the first half of the season and by the three-quarter stage after 12 games were 28 points adrift, theirs really was a great escape.
Sandford won five of their last six games and the one they lost was only by six runs to Plymouth.
“All the players have stood-up and the past six weeks have been amazing” said Foan, who will inevitably be nominated for the Devon League’s player of the year award.
“We have really come together as a team and shown how good we can be.
“It was a fantastic way to finish and really does give the club a chance to build on this season.
“Hopefully we will not be in the same position next year.”
Beaten captain Randerson was magnanimous in his praise for Sidmouth, who pinched the title on the last day, and opposite number Foan.
“Credit to Sidmouth – they are deserved champions,” said Randerson.
“Richard Foan played an innings that deserves to keep Sandford in the Premier Division.”