Norfolk Alliance Premier Division champions Fakenham fail to fire in ‘crazy’ EAPL play-offs
Captain Keegan Monahan-Fairlie admits Fakenham let themselves down as their dreams of securing an East Anglian Premier League return fell at the penultimate hurdle.
The Dipple & Conway Opticians Norfolk Alliance Premier Division champions hosted their Tucker Gardner (Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire) counterparts Godmanchester Town at Highfield Lawn yesterday in this year's promotion play-off semi-final. But it was the visitors who stepped up to the mark during the shoot-out and triumphed by 50 runs to book their place in Saturday's winner-takes-all battle at the home of Two Counties title winners Sudbury.
'We definitely didn't do ourselves justice,' said the 32-year-old skipper.
'I thought at one stage we held them back after looking down the barrel at probably 300 plus runs. We pegged it back in the field and we did well to bowl them all out in the end. On a good deck out there we were confident of chasing it down.
'It took a couple of youngsters towards the end to show us how it was done and they probably made the scoreboard a little bit more respectable for us. It just goes to show that we were never out of it and if we had someone from the top six hanging around it could have been a different story.
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'We lost three crucial wickets in the middle overs and that hurt us and put us on the back foot. That's cricket unfortunately. We knew they'd be decent but we were always backing ourselves as we'd also won our league. I definitely think if we played them 10 times we'd beat them eight times out of 10, no doubt about that. It's just unfortunate that it comes down to one day and on yesterday we weren't good enough.'
Fakenham, relegated from the EAPL five years ago, wrapped up their championship with a game to spare while Town arrived having only tasted one defeat on their way to a similarly dominant title tilt. Godmanchester took control of their latest fixture early on with Tariq Aziz (40), Matt Pateman (61) and Adam Cousins (69) threatening to take the game away from the men from Norfolk. However, some excellent fielding – which included three run outs – reduced the damage.
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Needing 268 for victory, Fakenham were dealt a crushing blow when run machine Chad Bowes was trapped lbw by Elliott Baldwin for, by his standards, a paltry 29. Only 16-year-old Tom Yarham (60) posted a half century as his side's stuttering run chase faltered.
'Losing in the play-offs twice hurts. You can go through the year doing so well, win the league, and for it to come down to one-off games is crazy,' added Monahan-Fairlie, who along with Luke Findlay, lost at the same stage when Fakenham last won the Alliance's top-flight in 2011.
'To be honest, the way the play-offs are set up with three feeder leagues vying for one spot to go into the EAPL is a crazy situation. It's nuts the way it is set up. If you look at the EAPL there's the top four who have done well but the scores at bottom half of the table suggests it doesn't look as competitive as it used to be.
'Maybe they need to look at having a bit of a shake-up and bringing at least two down or maybe having the team that finishes third or fourth bottom having a play-off to stay up too. You could have the winners of the feeder leagues going straight up because I know us three winners would be more competitive than the bottom three or four in the EAPL, and that's what's frustrating.'