Acle boss Sinclair expects title race to go to the wire
- Credit: Archant
The intense nature of the battle for one of Norfolk football's top prizes has been highlighted after the lead in the Sterry Cup race changed hands between Acle and old foes Blofield three times in 12 days.
The latest twist in the cat and mouse saga sees the Beavers holding sway. In fact the last time any other side got a look in on the top two was on December 8 when Wroxham Reserves briefly held second spot behind Blofield.
But although the archrivals will no doubt continue to scrap like dogs over the juiciest of bones, Acle joint-manager Martyn Sinclair is wary of several other hungry hounds who could yet steal the elusive prize from under their noses. 'This year there are perhaps six teams who could be in with a chance. I think it's probably going to come down to who has the easiest run-in.
'I think it's definitely going to go the wire, and it's probably between us and as many as five other teams.'
Acle were pipped to the title last season on goal difference by Cromer, who are currently under the radar in sixth place with games in hand because of postponements and cup exploits.
If Acle were to win their 12 remaining games only one team can pinch the title from them. That is Chris Wigger's Crabs, who would need to win all 14 of their remaining fixtures.
And Sinclair for one is not ruling out that scenario.
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'Cromer certainly have got the squad to win every game,' said Sinclair, enjoying the cut-and- thrust nature of the pitch dramas, which see Blofield, Wroxham Reserves, Dersingham and Spixworth all in the mix in what is shaping up to be the most open contest for many years.
Other than two games against Wroxham Reserves, currently level on points with them in third place, Acle do not have to play any of the other teams in the current top seven again, But Sinclair is fully aware that a lower-ranked side could easily throw a spanner in the works, especially when the increasing number of midweek matches, injuries and availabilities are thrown into the equation.'No one is going to make it easy for us,' he said.
That statement certainly applies to archrivals Blofield.
'You have always got to respect Blofield. They are our bitter rivals but at the same time there is a lot of respect between the clubs. They are old hands at winning the Sterry Cup, they have won it six times, and we have yet to win it so they have got the upper hand on us, but it keeps us fresh and fierce.'
Sinclair has been unable to resist some crystal ball gazing as he and joint-manager Tony Ward pursue the elusive dream which has gnawed away at the club and all who contribute to it for decades.
'I would be disappointed, based on what I have seen this season, if we couldn't get to the 65-point mark and as long as we do we are going to be somewhere close,' said Sinclair, operating in tandem with Ward for the third consecutive season.
It is a partnership which has helped to enhance the club's reputation not just in the Anglian Combination but also in cups.
'We might disagree from time to time but we always find a compromise. We must talk on the phone 14 or 15 hours a week and we are always looking at ways to do things. 'We bounce off each other and keep each other going.'
A Mummery Cup final date against Middy Brown's gallant beaten Norfolk Senior Cup semi-finalists Spixworth on May 7 has already been secured this season.
New signings have bedded in well as the team, skippered by Luke Goreham, continues to evolve. Ricci Butler, ex-Haven Bridge and Gorleston, has netted 17 times in nine games since joining in November while Ricky Forder has also made his mark in a forward role since stepping up a level from Bradenham and Darren Cockrill's experience has proved valuable in defence. Sinclair added: 'Everybody is buying into the ethos of what we are trying to do at Acle. Hard work and togetherness off the pitch.'