‘Crunch time’ in Hastings’ season

James Pooley batting for Hastings Priory in their last home game, against East Grinstead two weeks ago. Picture by Simon Newstead
James Pooley batting for Hastings Priory in their last home game, against East Grinstead two weeks ago. Picture by Simon Newstead

Hastings Priory coach Ian Gillespie says the cricket club has reached ‘crunch time’ in its battle to avoid relegation.

Bottom-of-the-table Priory will face the three teams immediately above them in their next three Sussex Cricket League Premier Division matches.

Gillespie said: “Our season now is going to revolve around the next three or four weeks. It’s absolutely crunch time for us.”

Priory’s next two league games are both at home, against fourth-from-bottom Cuckfield today (Saturday) and second-bottom Ifield next weekend, before they travel to third-bottom Middleton on Saturday July 14.

“Cuckfield, Middleton and Ifield are all down there with us, and then we’ve got a couple of teams (Brighton & Hove and Eastbourne) just above them in mid-table,” continued Gillespie.

“If we don’t get a decent return from those, we’re then going into (games against) the top four, which is going to be a real struggle for us.”

With two teams to go down at the end of the season, Priory are 14 points adrift of Ifield and 29 behind Middleton having picked up just two points from their last three league fixtures, all of which have been heavy defeats against the top three clubs.

“Confidence is very low for our batters and it’s a brutal game because you’re so exposed,” Gillespie went on. “But the team spirit’s good; we’re not arguing with each other over what to do and what not to do.

“We’re very clear in what we need to do and people are working very hard - they’re practising probably harder than ever. The confidence just isn’t there and it’s reflected in some of the dismissals where people are trying to get runs a little bit too early.

“We need someone to stand up and rally round. We need someone who’s going to score a fifty or hundred and people can draw confidence from that. Similarly with the ball, we want someone who says ‘give it to me’ and starts taking wickets.

“We need a couple of people to really lead and then you start to get some confidence back, and the game can change. But it’s got to happen quickly for us.”

One such player is Elliot Hooper and Priory are hoping the influential all-rounder will return to the area in time to make his first appearance for the club this season today.

“He will bring energy to the team and some confidence,” added Gillespie. “He’s going to be one of those leaders hopefully that will do that job for us.”

Adam Barton will be on duty with the MCC Young Cricketers at Lord’s today, but Bede’s students Ryan Hoadley and Harry Scowen are back in the equation for a game which will get underway from 12noon at Horntye Park.

Priory will also be in action tomorrow (Sunday) when they will travel to Division Three West strugglers Worthing for a Gray-Nicolls Sussex T20 Cup quarter-final.

“That’s important to us,” added Gillespie. “We would like to get a win to get a bit of confidence, and we would like to do well in that competition.”

Sussex Premier League standings (all played 8 matches): 1 Roffey 205pts, 2 East Grinstead 193, 3 Preston Nomads 165, 4 Brighton & Hove 155, 5 Horsham 153, 6 Eastbourne 132, 7 Cuckfield 106, 8 Middleton 100, 9 Ifield 85, 10 HASTINGS PRIORY 71.

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