Bexhill Cricket Club is heading into successive home games which could well prove crucial to its Sussex Premier League survival quest.
Second-bottom Bexhill will host the two teams immediately above them, Middleton today (Saturday) and Brighton & Hove next weekend.
Bexhill captain Johnathan Haffenden said: “It’s massive. They’re the sort of games we need to win. We’ve got two home games and home’s always been a good place for us, although we’ve not played it very well this year. It would be nice to have a good performance.”
With two teams to go down at the end of the season, Bexhill are currently 64 points adrift of third-bottom Middleton and fourth-bottom Brighton.
Two victories would breathe new life into Bexhill’s survival hopes, but two defeats would leave them with a near impossible task during the final third of the summer.
“We’re still going to fight for it,” continued Haffenden. “We’re not giving up, we’re not going to roll over. The group we’ve got will be trying their hearts out for the rest of the season.
“I still think we can play the 50-over cricket better than we did last time. Even though we’ve got some hard games, we could win four out of the last four (when the format switches back to limited overs). There’s pressure on us, but hopefully good pressure that can make us perform.”
Bexhill have lost nine of their 10 league games so far, including five out of five at The Polegrove, where in recent years they’ve been pretty strong.
One of those losses was an 84-run defeat in the reverse fixture against Middleton on the opening day. On that occasion Bexhill were all out for 165 in reply to Middleton’s 249.
Middleton possess a strong batting line-up with the likes of captain Sean Heather, overseas player Gerhardt Abrahams and in-form Sussex second team opener Angus Robson.
“Middleton are a good side, but they are beatable,” added Haffenden, who scored a season’s best 65 off 67 balls in the reverse fixture. “They do bat in depth and Sean Heather’s a class bat, but a couple of early wickets and anything can happen.”
Batting is a key area of focus for Bexhill at present as they’ve only scored more than 165 on two occasions so far this summer.
“We need to up our game,” admitted Haffenden. “Everyone’s trying their hearts out, but only scoring 200 twice in the first 10 games is not really good enough.
“If you’re batting well, you’re application is good. But when your confidence is low, you play false shots and things don’t go for you. You just get that little bit of luck as well when you’re in nick. Someone needs to stand up and be that person that does it.”
Joseph Sarro and Byron Smith, two of the five bowlers Bexhill used in last weekend’s defeat away to Roffey, are unavailable for today’s match, which is due to begin at 12noon.
Teenage all-rounder Ethan Guest has chosen not to play again for the remainder of the season and it’s unlikely Bradley Payne will feature either. Payne works in London and therefore can’t train, and sometimes doesn’t arrive in the locality until Saturday morning.
Haffenden is hoping Stuart Collier is close to returning from injury.
Sussex Premier League standings (all played 9 matches): 1 Roffey 255pts, 2 East Grinstead 254, 3 Horsham 225, 4 Cuckfield 213, 5 Preston Nomads 185, 6 HASTINGS PRIORY 160, 7 Brighton & Hove 153, 8 Middleton 153, 9 BEXHILL 89, 10 Ansty 73.