Wanderers’ title hopes face key examination
Norwich and Coltishall Wanderers hope to ignite their title challenge with victory over unbeaten Norfolk Alliance Premier Division leaders Fakenham this weekend.
The second-placed outfit travel to Highfield Lawn with their confidence boosted by a good run of form which leaves them upbeat for the trip to the former East Anglian Premier League outfit, who have won all nine games played this term.
Wanderers are refusing to be overawed by Fakenham's impressive statistics as they prepare for the season-defining encounter, pivotal to whether they become champions or also-rans.
'We are going to be looking for a win.
'If we want to win the league then we must beat them. If we do we will close the gap on them to less than 20 points,' said team spokesman Scott Hayes.
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He added: 'We have been playing good cricket.
'We certainly expect to give them a better game than we did when we lost to them by six wickets in the first game of the season. There is no doubt that they are the strongest side in the league but we are in a better position now than we were.'
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Skipper Alistair Ponder admitted that Fakenham are strong title favourites but added: 'Every game we take seriously. We will give it our best shot.'
Wanderers kept their grip on second spot as runs flowed freely in a winning draw with Cromer at the weekend, with home-grown talent Will Stebbings hitting an unbeaten 107, skipper Alistair Ponder scoring his season's best (86) and Jeremy Elliott contributing a personal best (78) as the Barton Turf outfit posted 311-4 before restricting Cromer to 172-9.
Overseas professional Ben Christensen, a New Zealander, scored a century against Diss and has also been contributing wickets as a member of a three-pronged spin attack spearheaded by veteran Nigel Young, a former Lancashire League professional who is the team's leading wicket-taker with 26.
Greater availability has been the key to the Wanderers revival which has helped to banish memories of a disappointing campaign which saw them finish seventh and only achieve three outright wins last term.
'Last season we had inconsistency of availability which meant we didn't do as well as we should have done.
'This year we have had eight or nine regulars every week,' said paceman Hayes. 'We have got three good spinners and two or three seamers. This year the wickets have been turning a little bit even though it has been quite a dry summer.
'We knew that if we played well we could finish in the top three or four. I don't think we were expecting Downham to have such a poor start to the season but I am sure they will come back into it.'
Wanderers have not won the Alliance top flight title since the league's formation in 1971 but won the coveted Carter Cup in 1979.
The club, formed in 1913, was without a ground to call its own – hence the Wanderers name – until 1930 when it moved to Barton Turf, widely considered to be one of Norfolk's most picturesque grounds.
• CLUB IS OPEN TO DISCUSSIONS ABOUT CONSOLIDATION – PONDER
Norwich and Coltishall Wanderers club captain Alistair Ponder believes 'radical changes' need to be made to safeguard the long-term future of cricket at Barton Turf.
In comments which raise the possibility of further mergers and partnerships for the 98-year-old club which merged with Coltishall in 2005, he said: 'We need to talk seriously with other clubs locally about consolidation options.
'We believe if we are going to safeguard the future of cricket at Barton Turf for the next 100 years, or even the next two or three years, clubs need to talk with each other about the consolidation options which are available. Can some economies of scale be achieved if clubs look to work together?'
Five Test players have found their way to Barton Turf over the last 10 years.
New Zealand wicket-keeper Gareth Hopkins was followed by fellow countryman Ross Taylor, who was then Kiwi Under 19 captain, but has recently succeeded Daniel Vettori as Test captain. Other top-quality overseas professional imports have been Mohammad Wasim (Pakistan); Brian Strang (Zimbabwe) and Deep Dasgupta (India.)
The club hopes to be able to host some star-studded events for its centenary in 2013. But Ponder said: 'In order for that to happen we have got to get solid new foundations in place.'