Cricket: Nantwich look to put seal on third successive title
NANTWICH captain Andy Newton says being on the brink of a third successive Premier Division title is barely believable after his side's poor start.
The Dabbers' hopes of emulating the achievements of Bowdon (2002 to 2004) and Oulton Park (2005 to 2007) looked to be all but over as early as June.
A long summer appeared in prospect after a run of four defeats in their opening eight matches left them languishing in the lower half of the Chapel Press Cheshire County League.
And even the most ardent Nantwich supporter wouldn't have been racing to the bookmakers to ask for odds on their side's title prospects.
However, fast forward 13 matches and how things change.
A run of eight victories and five draws has left Nantwich perched at the summit, 12 points clear of Hyde.
They've strung together five straight victories... and making that half-a-dozen at struggling Toft tomorrow would ensure the championship pennant remains at Whitehouse Lane.
"We couldn't have envisaged being in this position after the start we made," said Newton.
"We'll go to Toft and aim for the win because we know we can't afford to drop points with Hyde just behind us.
"In a way it's a horrible situation to be in with the pressure, but you wouldn't want to be anywhere else heading into the final fixture."
And Newton says their late August drive for the line – which included victories over Hyde and then-leaders Macclesfield – were critical moments.
"Hyde will still be looking at that game and wondering what might have been. They were 120-2 chasing 215 and ended up 195 all out," said Newton.
"The victory over Macclesfield was crucial. We were 34 points adrift going into the match and nine afterwards.
"It was an excellent win because Macclesfield were going well. The week after, against Widnes, we moved to the top and managed to stay there."
The runs of Louis Bentley and Jonny Kettle, who have racked up 661 and 498 in the league have been at the forefront of Nantwich's rise up the table.
The familiar figure of seamer Jimmy Warrington has led the bowling attack, with 56 victims to his name, while left-arm spinner Ollie Griffiths has harvested 31 wickets in his first season at the club.
However, Newton still can't come up with a theory about why his side's fortunes turned around so dramatically.
"I can't put on my finger on how, why or when it all clicked into place for us," he added.
"I suppose it is just down to hard work and when you get used to winning it is a good habit to have.
"You just carry on that confidence week after week, which is what we seem to have been doing."
Hyde, who will be looking to capitalise on any slip-up from Nantwich, have a tough-looking finale at third-placed Marple.
CONGLETON bring the curtain down on their Division Two season with a trip to third-placed Poynton.
Congleton need a win to cement fifth place – an improved effort on last year's relegation struggles – with Stockport lying just nine points adrift.
Phil Nunn's side travel full of confidence after thumping Upton by 119 runs last weekend.
Australian Jye Bailey impressed with a sparkling 142, while Jack Higginbotham picked up 5-55.