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Stowmarket reveal promotion ambitions for third year running

Stowmarket captain Paul Blake knows this weekend’s double header in Division Four of the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship can ‘make or break’ their promotion ambitions.

The club are targeting a third consecutive advancement in as many seasons, after sinking to a 2015 low when just four wins from their 22 fixtures condemned them to relegation to Division Six – the lowest they have ever dropped in the Championship’s history.

But, since that ‘nightmare season’, the club have been on a seemingly unstoppable rise and are, so far, unbeaten from their opening seven fixtures.

And this weekend they face both second and third place in the division in Eight Ash Green – away on Saturday (1pm) – and Felixstowe & Corinthians – away on Sunday (1pm).

Blake said it was ‘far from ideal’ to have to play their strongest opponents in the title chase in back-to-back fixtures.

But, after Felixstowe were unavailable on September 15 – with the season extended by a week – Sunday was the only available date both sides could arrange.

He said: “We have said that this is the weekend that will make or break our season in a lot of ways.

“I think Eight Ash and Felixstowe are our biggest challengers but we have a really good chance of coming out on top with our current track record over several years, as well as this season.

“We’re playing with a lot of confidence and, by the back-end of this weekend, we will have a good idea of our chances for promotion and winning the league.”

Blake said the team’s early success had come as a surprise to them all, with an initial aim of Division Four consolidation and a mid-table finish.

But after racing into a commanding lead early on, Blake said the club’s ambitions shifted as it became clear they were more than competitive.

“We would be disappointed if we were not at least up there at the end of the season now,” he said.

He explained that the club had focused, in recent years, on their youth set-up and were now reaping those rewards, alongside the welcome return of key players.

Blake had high praise for the ‘future’ of the club with youngsters such as George Tilbrook in the fold, a player who has competed for the Suffolk under-15s, while aware of the impact of the returns of Dale and Craig Watling alongside Kevin Holland.

He said career changes for the latter three had enabled them to return to Saturday cricket.

* On Saturday, Stowmarket (265-6) beat Elmstead II (202-8) by 63 runs to extend their lead in Division Four to 29 points.

Dale Watling (109) was the side’s top scorer while Kevin Holland (50 no) also had a good knock.

Craig Watling recorded top bowling figures of 3-19 from his six overs, helped by Dale’s two wickets (for 44 runs) and Holland’s one (for 28 runs).

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