Previews and comment from all five games in tomorrow’s Premier Division programme
HEATHCOAT will take a step closer to their first Premier Division title if they win at Exmouth on Saturday.
The long-time leaders are 17 points clear of Paignton at the top with four games and 80 points to play for.
For all practical purpose Heathcoat have to lose twice for Paignton to go past them – so the last thing they want now is to slip against a team in the bottom half of the table.
And skipper Jackson Thompson won’t have forgotten the last team to beat his was bottom side Torquay.
Heathcoat are in pretty good shape after walloping Plymouth by 140 runs last time out and more of the form that saw 351 for six put on the board is what Thompson would like to see.
“We are looking to present the best versions of ourselves, like any other Saturday, and can only control what we do,” said Thompson.
“Exmouth do have some decent players and it would take us to be on best form to overcome them.
“After last week's efforts, I have asked my squad to be relentless in achieving their personal goals, which align with our team goals.”
Dan Pyle is away so Dylan Penberthy steps up in the middle order after impressing for the last two weeks in the 2ndXI.
Exmouth skipper Andy Buzza hopes to put last Saturday’s frustrating 29-run defeat at Paignton in the past.
Buzza said despite the outcome at Paignton he remains happy with Exmouth’s direction of travel this season. A team widely tipped to be relegation fodder due to close-season departures, is comfortable in mid-table.
“I am really happy with how the lads have started to come together over the past few weeks and the style of cricket we have played,” said Buzza.
Opener James Horler returns and replaces the holidaying George Greenway for the trip to Heathcoat.
SANDFORD skipper Richard Foan has got Plymouth’s run machine Faizan Riaz marked down as public enemy number one for Saturday’s clash at Mount Wise.
The Pakistani pro has hit five centuries and two half-centuries already this season on the way to 93 league runs. He has four games left to top last summer’s tally of 1110.
No other batsman is within a hundred of Riaz – Sidmouth’s Alex Barrow is next best on 801 – then there is a big gap before Heathcoat duo Peter Randerson (581) and Rob Holman (557) appear.
When Riaz does well so do Plymouth. But as Sandford found out earlier in the season it is a two-way street.
Chris Jelly dismissed Riaz for 31 when the sides first met and Sandford went on to win by 45 runs.
“It is always a tough game when you come up against the best player in the league,” said Foan.
“Hopefully we can get him early and that will give us a good chance of getting a result.
“Our form is good and we are playing good cricket so looking forward to the challenge and hopefully another win.”
Sandford defeated fellow strugglers Bovey Tracey by 88 runs last time out to move away from the bottom two.
Plymouth lost by 45 runs when the sides last met, Chris Jelley and Chris Simpton bowling Sandford to victory. The result still rankles with Plymouth skipper Jon Varcoe, who said: “We were disappointing up at Sandford earlier in the season so will be looking to put in a good performance this weekend.”
Devon paceman Dan Goodey returns and Robbie Bennett comes back into the Plymouth side.
EXETER skipper Tom Pedel will be glad to see Ben Green back in the dressing room for the derby clash with Sidmouth.
Somerset staffer Green was not available last Saturday when Exeter were skittled for 94 by North Devon and crashed to an eight-wicket defeat.
Also missing were Tom Lammonby, Exeter’s other Somerset all-rounder, and batter Harvey Sargent.
Lammonby remains out of action as far as Exeter are concerned, but fit again Sargent will return in the hope of scoring runs against his former club.
Sidmouth’s season of never-ending change continues with Will Murray, Josh Bess, Matt Cooke and Nick Gingell all absent.
Jash Patidar is recalled to the first team for the first time since Sidmouth last faced Exeter and he dismissed Green.
Nick Mansfield and Rory Thomas, who lashed a huge ton for the 2ndXI last Saturday, come in.
AUSSIE all-rounder A J Isherwood will take charge of the North Devon team for Saturday’s home game against second-placed Paignton.
As skipper Tom Popham is unavailable, Isherwood has been invited to lead the side.
Isherwood will be without seamer Matt Westaway, who shared the new ball in last Saturday’s win over Exeter, and has a fitness doubt over bowling all-rounder Fred King.
Ed Yeo is promoted from the 2ndXI to face Paignton and ever-youthful Rob Ayre – 48 and still going strong – is also drafted in.
Paignton, still aiming to do something about the 17-point gap between them and leaders Heathcoat, have added a batter to their side.
Seamer Stephen George is away so skipper George Benton has brought in Noah Wright to add more depth to the batting.
North Devon have only just clambered out of the bottom two and in Benton’s eyes their league position make them a threat.
“North Devon will be tough as they are in a relegation battle so we can't ease off,” said Benton.
With 80 points to play for Paignton can still catch Heathcoat, but they have to keep winning and hope the leaders lose at least once and start dropping bonus points.
Benton is phlegmatic about Paignton’s prospects.
“These final four games a vital,” said Benton. We've got to keep winning and keep playing well.
“All the pressure is above us so we just need to stick to what we are doing and play what's in front of us.”
BOVEY Tracey captain Toby Codd has not minced his words ahead of the relegation clash with Torquay at Ashburton Road.
Torquay (136pts) are bottom of the table and Bovey (139) are immediately ahead of them.
Bovey and Torquay are both aiming to get ahead of North Devon (143pts) and/or Sandford (149) in the dying weeks of the season.
“This is probably the biggest game of our season so far,” said Codd.
“If we don't manage to win then we probably deserve to go down.”
Former Devon captain Chris Bradley comes in for medium pacer Ryan Bougourd, who is away.